|Why Reduce Waste?|
Why Reduce, Reuse & Recycle?
We’ve all heard about the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Reduce the amount and toxicity of trash you discard.
Reuse containers and products; repair what is broken or give it to someone who can repair it.
Recycle as much as possible, which includes buying products with recycled content.
Practicing the three R’s helps us lessen the environmental impact that manufacturing and distributing products have on our environment. Reducing waste is the most effective 3R practice, because it means not producing unnecessary waste in the first place—so there’s zero impact on the environment.
Next best is Reuse, because it extends the life of a product. That item still had to be made, but it is used over and over, reducing the need to make new stuff.
Recycling is the reprocessing of materials. Recycling prevents that new—or “virgin"—natural resources such as trees, petroleum or metal ore have to be extracted. This reduces pollution and damage to the environment. However, recycling still creates some pollution because it is an industrial process. That’s why Reducing and Reuse are the most important 3R practices.
Read our monthly articles about the 3R's in the Salinas Californian and El Sol!
Recycling saves energy
Saving energy is one of the most important benefits of recycling. Collecting recyclables and processing them into new materials requires energy, but it’s far less than the amount needed to make those same products from “virgin” (newly extracted) materials.
For example, recycling used aluminum cans requires only about five percent of the energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite, an aluminum ore. That is because bauxite has to be heated and chemically treated to extract the aluminum, while the aluminum in a used can is already refined. Recycling just one can saves enough electricity to run a TV for 3 hours!
Recycling saves natural resources and prevents pollution
Consider this example: As much as two thirds of all paper products in North America are manufactured from virgin fiber. That means cutting down trees—sometimes from old growth forests—not to mention water and air pollution from the paper-making process. On the other hand, recycling just one Sunday newspaper every month for a year saves a full-grown tree and reduces contributions to air pollution by 95%! That’s because office paper, tissue paper and cardboard can easily be made from recycled paper instead of trees.
Recycling helps fight climate change
Climate change is caused by "greenhouse gases" - carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that trap heat in our atmosphere. Most of these gases are generated when fossil fuels are burned for energy. A considerable amount of energy is used in the production of new bottles and cans, which means a lot of greenhouse gases are put into the atmosphere. Recycling used containers into new ones rather than making them from raw materials requires far less energy, which cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Composting - the natural process of recycling organic materials back into soil - fights climate change, too. That is because food scraps and yard waste that are buried in the landfill generate methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. In a compost pile, on the other hand, there’s enough water and air for these organic materials to break down naturally.
Waste reduction is the law!
State law AB939, passed in 1989, required all California cities and counties to reduce the amount of waste going to their landfills by 50% by the year 2000, and maintain that amount thereafter. In December 2006 the SVSWA’s Board of Directors increased this goal to 75% by 2015 for the cities in our jurisdiction.