Dear EarthTalk: Recycling can be a somewhat time-consuming task; so can you please provide some benefits of taking the time to separate my trash?--Joseph Jiminez, Houston, TX
Recycling, which turns materials that would otherwise be incinerated or become landfill-clogging waste into valuable resources, has become second nature for many Americans. As many as four out of five U.S. households already take the time to separate recyclables from trash. Those hold-outs not yet willing to bother should consider the benefits to their household and society at large.
First and foremost for consumers is saving money. Many municipalities across the U.S. today don't charge customers for curb-side pickup of recyclables but continue to charge for garbage pick-up, so recycling is a way to reduce a household's overall waste expense. Otherwise, consumers who collect large amounts of recyclables may be able to find a local company willing to buy them in bulk. Some municipalities operate drop-off centers where consumers can trade in aluminum cans and other scrap metal (copper, steel, etc.) for cash. Yet another way to recycle and make some cash is to sell your old stuff in a yard sale. Likewise, shopping at yard sales and second-hand stores will also prevent the manufacture of new items altogether.
And there are many benefits to recycling beyond each household's own bottom line. Recycling saves resources. By recycling paper we save oxygen-providing, carbon-sequestering trees from the axe. By recycling plastic, we save petroleum, contributing (however slightly) to national security. By recycling metals, we take a bite out of energy-intensive mining. And recycling anything saves large amounts of energy and water that would otherwise be expended in making new goods from virgin materials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adds that recycling "protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases...