Thursday, June 28, 2012

Recycling is Patriotic

As the 4th of July holiday nears and everyone is gearing up for parties and barbeques, I would like to take a minute to reflect on the history of recycling in this country. Recycling isn’t a new idea brought on by the “Green Revolution”. America was made stronger through re-use and recycling. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at wartime efforts.

During WWII America was in full swing with efforts to get people to re-use for as long as possible and recycle many metals, fabric, cooking fats and other materials needed for the war effort.  Japan cut off access to rubber in Indochina and German U-boats threatened interception of rubber coming out of Africa and South America. So rubber drives popped up all over the country and it became almost impossible to buy tires for anything.

As is still the case, making metal from ore takes more energy than making it from scrap. Aluminum drives were everywhere as the government needed it for making aircraft. Children showed up in large numbers donating their toys, mostly made of metal in those days, to the war effort (sorry, Erector sets).

Paper was being recycled in huge numbers to make boxes for shipping supplies to troops. A lot of blood plasma was sent this way.

Recycling wasn’t only important during wartime either. While the percentage of raw materials supplied to manufacturers has varied, recyclables have remained an integral part of America’s industrial base for over a century. It is more expensive to mine new materials and create a product than it is to use scrap. Energy, water, resources, and pollutants (which we have to deal with in many different and often expensive ways) are all saved by recycling.

So, recycling makes good economic sense as well as being patriotic.

Did I mention that recycling creates jobs?

And in the United States, according to the U.S. Recycling Economic Information Study, there are more than 56,000 recycling and reuse establishments in US and they employ approximately 1.1 million people. This number of workers is comparable to the automobile and truck manufacturing industry in the region, and is significantly larger than the mining and waste management and disposal industries there. In addition, wages for workers in the recycling industry are notably higher than the national average for all industries. Overall, annual revenues of about $236 billions are generated. (

To think, the recycling rate in the U.S. has been hovering around 30-34% for quite some time now. It has been estimated that up to 75% of our waste is readily recyclable. Imagine the economic benefits if we got to that number!

Let’s take a first step if you haven’t been recycling up until now and this 4thof July, recycle all you can. And remember, you are helping the economy too!

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