Did you know that about 75% of the waste that Americans produce is recyclable? While such a large percentage of trash can be recycled, only about 30% of the waste makes it into the recycling bin.
While recycling is generally known as being good for the environment, there are plenty of different pros and cons to recycling. Keep reading to learn more about recycling, fifteen advantages of recycling, and twelve disadvantages of recycling.
27 Advantages And Disadvantages Of Recycling
What Are Some Advantages Of Recycling?
Recycling is known for being better for the environment, reducing waste, and conserving our natural resources.
These are just a few of the major reasons why recycling is so important. However, there are plenty of other benefits to recycling, and we have 15 of them coming right up.
Keep reading to learn about the different advantages of recycling!
1. Recycling Helps To Reduce Pollution
One of the main benefits of recycling is that it helps decrease pollution. Most of the pollution in the world is created by making plastic, glass, and cans.
By reusing these materials instead of making more of them, recycling centers can reduce the amount of pollution produced.
Therefore, next time you decide to drink a bottle of soda, recycle it instead of throwing it into the trash. On average, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles per hour.
By recycling your plastic bottle, you will be able to help reduce pollution because that bottle of soda can be broken down and reused.
2. Recycling Helps Mother Nature
Did you know that approximately 15 billion trees are cut down each year to make paper? One tree can make about 8,333 sheets of paper.
Here are some of the consequences of cutting down trees:
- Animal endangerment or extinction
- Climate change
- Loss of animal habitat
- Soil erosion
As you can see, cutting down trees comes with serious consequences for the environment.
Therefore, by choosing to recycle paper instead of throwing it in the trash, the paper can be broken down and reused to make new paper.
3. Recycling Minimizes Waste In Landfills
The average person produces 1,700 pounds of waste every single year, that is a lot of trash!
Therefore, landfill waste is a serious problem in America and throughout the rest of the world.
At the rate we are currently going, the United States will run out of landfill space in approximately 18 years.
Additionally, in 2018, Americans generated 292 million tons of waste. Here is a breakdown of what makes up that waste:
- Paper: 23%
- Food: 22%
- Plastic: 12%
- Yard trimmings: 12%
- Metal: 9%
- Glass: 4%
- Other: 18%
The top 3 waste contributors on the list above are all materials that are simple to recycle.
So by choosing to recycle materials instead of throwing them in the trash, the amount of waste that ends up in landfills can be reduced.
Furthermore, since we are running out of landfill space, it is critical to start cutting back on waste as much as possible.
4. Recycling Aids Against Climate Change
In addition to filling up landfills, disposing of waste also creates issues with greenhouse emissions. Here are some of the different gases that are created when disposing of waste:
- Carbon dioxide
These greenhouse gases are a major driver of climate change because they trap heat within the earth’s atmosphere.
Normally, this heat would be able to escape into space, but with additional greenhouse gases, it cannot.
Since there is a much larger amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than there has been in the past, we may begin to see our temperatures on earth rise.
Additionally, this rising heat will affect all living species on earth.
However, by recycling, the amount of waste that is being disposed of can be reduced.
Furthermore, reducing the amount of waste will help to decrease the volume of greenhouse gas going into the atmosphere.
5. Recycling Cuts Back On Energy Consumption
Another benefit of recycling is reduced energy consumption. Additionally, natural resources need to be used to create new materials such as plastic, glass, and aluminum.
Furthermore, to get those natural resources, a lot of effort needs to be put into mining and refining.
Mining requires a significant amount of energy which results in even more fossil fuels being burned.
However, recycling helps to cut back on energy consumption because the old materials can just be reused.
Moreover, reusing materials cuts back on the amount of mining and refining that is necessary to get new resources.
6. The Recycling Industry Helps Create New Job Opportunities
Did you know that approximately 15-20 million people all around the world work in the recycling industry?
Recycling has created millions of jobs around the world, and that number is only expected to continue growing in the upcoming years.
Here are some of the different jobs that people in the recycling industry have:
- Machine technicians
- Recycling site sorter
- Recycling truck drivers
Furthermore, the process of collecting recyclable material, sorting that material, and converting it into new resources requires the use of manpower.
Additionally, recycling jobs often help bring new jobs to low-income areas and provide great growth opportunities.
7. Recycling Promotes Environmental Awareness
In addition to the benefits that recycling has on the environment, it also has helped increase awareness of our environment.
Before the recycling movement, many people weren’t aware of the impact that waste and emissions have on the environment.
Recycling started a whole new trend, and people began realizing that taking care of the earth is important.
Now, recycling is something that is taught in school, and each new generation is proving to be more environmentally friendly than the next.
Another way that recycling increases awareness is by letting people get physically involved in protecting the environment.
When someone takes their recyclable material to a recycling facility instead of throwing it away, they can feel good about knowing they are making a difference.
One small change in behavior (such as recycling) can lead to people changing their whole mindset on how to care for the environment.
8. Recycling Inspires The Use Of Green Energy
Since the environmental awareness created by recycling, people have been looking for even more ways to positively impact the environment.
One of the main ways that people are doing this is by turning to green energy. Here are a few examples of green energy that are becoming popular:
Green energy will have the ability to reduce further pollution and the use of natural resources in the future.
However, while recycling isn’t the direct cause of our green energy use, it has certainly helped to inspire it.
9. Recycling Creates A Cleaner Ocean
Did you know that an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic are currently circulating in the ocean?
Unfortunately, marine life mistakes plastic for food, and because of this plastic has been found inside 100% of sea turtle species and a majority of marine bird species.
Here are some of the other effects of plastic in the ocean:
- Endangerment or extinction of marine species
- Increased risk of spreading disease
- Plastic in the fish we consume
Therefore, by choosing to recycle, you can reduce the risk of more plastic getting into the ocean and the possible risk of marine life consuming it.
10. Recycling Preserves Precious Resources
As mentioned earlier, creating new material requires finding more resources.
Unfortunately, those resources are limited, and eventually, we are going to run out of them.
However, here are some of the natural resources that recycling can help preserve:
- Fossil fuels
Additionally, if we keep using our natural resources at the rate we currently are, scientists predict that we will start running out in about 50 years.
That is why we must start reusing some of those resources instead of using new ones.
Therefore, recycling is a great way to help reduce the number of natural resources used.
11. Recycling Allows For Increased Educational Opportunities
Recycling creates both environmental awareness and new educational opportunities.
Therefore, schools spend a lot of time teaching children about the importance of recycling. This then leads to a better understanding of how we impact the earth.
Furthermore, learning about how to properly recycle also provides educational opportunities for learning how to deal with waste in general.
12. Recycling Leads To New Innovations
Since there is more that goes into recycling education than it initially seems, scientists can take our experience with recycling and come up with innovations to deal with waste in the future.
Although recycling isn’t a perfect method, it does help us understand what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to dealing with waste.
With innovations, we could come up with an even better system of how to reuse our materials.
Here are some recycling innovations that may seem far fetched but also might be possible in the future:
- Roads made from plastic
- Using plastic to make low-cost refugee shelters
- Using a 3D printer to print furniture
13. You Can Be Paid To Recycle
If the thought of helping out the environment isn’t enough to incentivize you to recycle, you should also know that it is possible to get paid to recycle!
Here are a few different items that can allow you to earn money for recycling:
- Old electronics
If you are someone who eats canned soup or vegetables regularly, you could make some extra money by recycling your used cans. When you recycle cans, you can earn up to $5 per pound!
This is a great way to make some extra money without even trying.
Do you own hundreds of old books that you have read? Were some of your books passed down from family members, and you have no intention of reading them?
If so, you can earn extra money by recycling them. Furthermore, by reselling them on Amazon, you can allow others to enjoy the book just as much as you did.
This prevents the unnecessary printing of extra books, and you earn some cash.
Anytime you replace an old electronic, you should recycle it. Furthermore, several different companies will purchase your old laptop or cell phone from you.
When this happens, your device will either be resold or scrapped for parts.
14. Recycling Brings Entire Communities Together
Recycling is a rewarding experience that allows people to come together.
Furthermore, when people have a similar interest and can work together towards the same goal, it creates a stronger community bond.
For example, some communities have created recycling programs to make money for schools and charities.
Other towns have created community clean-ups where the goal is to pick up and recycle as much trash as possible.
15. Recycling Creates Better Soil Fertilizer
So far, this article has mostly talked about the advantages of recycling non-organic waste, but what about food waste? Food does account for about 22% of America’s total waste, after all.
If you happen to have your own garden and land, you can create your own fertilizer just by composting your food waste.
Composting is the process of letting food waste decompose back into the soil.
Furthermore, because food makes up such a large percentage of waste, composting will allow you to keep a lot of waste out of the landfills.
Additionally, food waste in landfills creates extra unnecessary greenhouse gases.
Here are the different organic materials that can be composted:
- Coffee filters
To start composting your organic waste, you can set up an old trash bin, a tote, or whatever you like.
Then you just need to learn about layering your “green” and “brown” waste.
By doing this, you will be creating rich fertilizer for your garden before you know it!
However, if you don’t have a home with a backyard to compost in, your community may also have a communal composting space.
What Are The Disadvantages of Recycling?
While there are more advantages to recycling, there are also disadvantages of recycling that are important to consider.
However, some of these can be mitigated as long as you’re mindful of them.
Furthermore, recycling can be expensive and unsafe, so keep reading to learn more about some of the disadvantages of recycling.
1. The Recycling Process Itself Is Expensive
In comparison to putting waste into landfills, recycling can be expensive.
When all of the trash is thrown into a landfill, the only real costs are the truck drivers, the cost of constructing a landfill, and some operating fees.
Furthermore, a study completed in San Jose showed that the cost of putting waste into a landfill was $28 per ton, while the cost of recycling one ton of waste was $147.
Additionally, here are some of the different costs associated with recycling:
- Education for the public on the benefits of recycling
- Machine repairs are required to process recycled material
- Paying employees to sort recycled material
- Paying truck drivers to pick up recycling
- Running recycling facilities
It also is important to keep in mind that recycling some material costs more than recycling others.
For example, the cost of recycling glass and plastic is much higher than the cost of recycling newspapers
While recycling may be more expensive, keep in mind that landfills can be expensive in other ways, such as the lasting effects on the environment.
2. Recycling Requires More Up-Front Costs
Not only is recycling expensive to actually process the materials, but it also requires a lot of upfront costs.
For example, the cost of opening a new recycling facility can be anywhere from $400,000 to $2,000,000.
Here are some of the costs required to start a recycling site:
- Constructing a building
- Investing in machinery
- Purchasing land
- Purchasing vehicles
- Setting up utilities
Once the initial costs have been covered, there are also the costs of hiring and training employees. As you can tell, starting a new recycling site is not cheap.
3. Recycled Materials Can be Lower in Quality
Another disadvantage of recycling is that the quality of the material produced is often not as good as materials created from scratch.
Furthermore, recycled plastic can be flimsy, less durable, and worn out.
Additionally, products that are made from recycled plastic usually don’t last as long as products made from new plastic.
Also, due to the recycling process, some recycled materials may be more harmful than they were in their original state, one good example of this is recycled paper.
This is because chemicals such as bleach are added to make the paper white again.
Furthermore, bleach can have harmful effects on the environment, making the new paper a lower-quality product.
4. Recycling Sites Are Unsafe
Unfortunately, recycling sites can be unsafe for those that are employed by them.
Assorting through electronics, scrap metals, and batteries comes with the risk of getting cut or being exposed to dangerous chemicals.
Additionally, when sorting through glass, plastic, and cans, workers run the risk of being exposed to harmful bacteria and diseases.
However, the risk to workers doesn’t stop after the sorting. There are also dangers of operating the heavy machinery that is required to recycle material.
Here are some of the risks of operating recycling machinery:
- Ergonomic concerns
- Moving parts
- Machine starts up
5. Recycling Doesn’t Always Promote Quality Jobs
While it is fantastic that recycling centers create so many new jobs, the jobs are not always good quality.
This is because the workers usually don’t get paid well for the type of work that they are required to do.
Additionally, the workers often face safety concerns, as some of the chemicals that are used in the recycling process are harmful.
Furthermore, many recycling workers are also expected to work long hours with little pay and often no benefits.
6. Recycling Sites Cause Their Fair Share of Pollution
Recycling does a lot of good things for the environment, but it also can be harmful as it can produce harmful pollution when materials are broken down.
For example, plastic contains toxins that are released into the environment when re-processed.
Here is a list of toxins that plastic releases:
In addition to releasing those toxins into the environment, they are also remade into new products.
Additionally, these products could have effects on humans that are still unknown. One example of this is finding toxins in plastic toys in Europe.
7. Some People Don’t Care About Recycling
There are plenty of people that put their regular trash into their recycling bin and this act creates extra work for recycling workers and is a costly issue.
Furthermore, because there aren’t many legal regulations around recycling, many people get away with doing this.
This makes the recycling programs much less effective overall.
However, some cities and states do give out fines to people that don’t recycle properly, like in New Jersey for example.
Additionally, here are some cities that also require recycling to be done correctly:
- New York City
- San Francisco
8. Recycling Requirements Vary By City And Even State
Different communities, cities, and states all have different recycling requirements. This can confuse the residents. In fact, 9 out of 10 people say that they would be more likely to recycle if it were easier.
Frequently, the materials that can be recycled differ depending on the community. To make sure that something is recyclable, residents have to call their local recycling site.
Plenty of people won’t be willing to make the call to see if they can recycle something. This will result in them throwing the product in the trash, and eventually, they may give up on recycling altogether.
9. Recycling Facilities Are Unsanitary
If you ever get the chance to visit a recycling site, you will probably notice that they are very unsanitary.
As they typically have piles of waste littering the ground, however, not only is this gross to look at, but it also can be dangerous.
Here are some dangers of unsanitary recycling sites:
- Air pollution
- Harmful chemicals
- Water pollution
Therefore, unsanitary conditions can be breeding grounds for bacteria and diseases.
Furthermore, waste also could be washed away by rain and could contaminate nearby water sources.
10. Recycling Requires Strict Processes And Protocols
For recycling to work as intended, strict processes have to be followed.
Therefore, if recycling is not done correctly, there will be bad consequences for the environment.
For example, even small contaminants can be an issue in the recycling process.
So recycling sites must make sure that every bottle has the label removed to reduce the risk of something going wrong in the process.
11. Recycling Fails To Meet Demand
Even if we can increase recycling rates, there still won’t be enough recycled material to meet demand.
On average, Americans drink 65 million cans of soda each year. That number is expected to grow by about 10% each year.
Even if every single aluminum can is recycled, it still wouldn’t be enough to keep up with demand.
Therefore, relying just on recycling alone won’t be enough to meet our needs as a society and mining aluminum will still be a necessity in the future.
12. Ability To Recycle Depends On The Community
Most of the time, the ability to recycle depends on the community that you live in as communities that have more money have the resources to implement recycling programs.
On the other hand, most poor communities do not have recycling programs as recycling requires money and education that many communities don’t have access to.
So for recycling to truly be effective, it will require involvement from all communities.
To learn more, you can also read our posts on the 14 examples of planned obsolescence, 37 revealing recycling facts you need to know, and 29 recycling tips to reduce your carbon footprint.
While recycling is generally good for the environment, it has its advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages of recycling include using less natural resources, reducing pollution, and creating jobs for communities.
However, some of the disadvantages include the cost of recycling, the working conditions inside recycling sites, and the quality of recycled materials. Although recycling isn’t perfect, it may lead to us finding the perfect solution to dealing with our waste in the future.