Recycling can have a great, positive impact on the environment by reducing deforestation, emissions from power and processing plants, and pollutants released into the environment. Consider an aluminum can. To make this from scratch, the bauxite ore must be mined, cleaned, ground into a powder, treated to get alumina, and then refined and heated to get liquid aluminum. The liquid is poured into molds to make ingots. These are then rolled into sheets and stamped to make cans. By recycling cans, all of those steps from mining to alumina can be skipped, all of that energy saved, and all of those environmental impacts from caustic red mud wastes from mining and the toxic fluorides and volatile hydrocarbons emitted during processing are avoided.
Trash in the environment can release toxic compounds. For example, plastics release PBT (persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic) substances and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) when they become weathered and degrade under environmental conditions. Plastics break down into microfilaments that get ingested by wildlife. The oceans are filled with plastics swirled into large patches—some big enough to form islands that you could walk on!
Recycling is a great way to reduce energy use, increase sustainable resource use, and reduce pollution. Consider this though: there are no federal laws mandating recycling! Recycling is regulated at the state level.
Choose ONE of the following topics, and answer the questions posed:
- State Laws for Recycling and Waste Management
Start here to check your state for recycling laws.
- Does your state have recycling laws? If yes, what are they? If no, explain why you think it should or should not.
- What do you recycle?
- Could you recycle more?
- What do you think of cities or states that mandate recycling?
- Plastics and Pollution
Here is a short video that explains garbage patches in the ocean.
- Find 1 thing that is banned from landfills in your state. Can you find or explain why it is banned? If it is a pollutant or health hazard, then why aren’t plastics banned as well?
- What do you think of cities and states that have banned plastic grocery bags?
- How effective are bottle bills at reducing plastic waste? Do you turn in bottles for nickels or dimes? If not, would you, if your state had a bottle bill?
- Read through this list. Is there one of these ways in which you could help reduce plastics in the ocean? Explain.