A Note About Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
By Torran Anderson
Plastic is an amazing, lightweight material that can be made into all sorts of things. But when we use plastic items once and then throw them out, we create a huge amount of waste. People create about 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage each year. That’s heavier than 225 million adult elephants. In the United States, we throw away 250 million tons of garbage every year. That’s enough garbage to cover the state of Texas entirely with trash—twice. On average, each person in the United States makes 4.5 pounds of trash each a day.
Just like Plastic Bottle Scrooge, each of us can make a difference by using good judgement when we buy and discards things.
When we reduce, reuse, and recycle, we:
- Save natural resources
- Save space in our landfills
- Save energy
- Reduce pollution
- Save money
The word reduce means to make something smaller. When we talk about reducing our waste, it means to make a smaller amount of garbage. Reducing can be as simple as using fewer paper napkins at a fast food restaurant. Buying products with less packaging helps us reduce the amount of waste we are creating. As well as composting organic materials instead of throwing them in the trash. Rethinking whether we really need everything we buy helps reduce how much we are consuming. Reduce is listed first in the three R’s because it is the most important one. When we reduce, we keep waste from happening in the first place. It is one of the most effective ways to help conserve our natural resources.
We often use something once and then get rid of it. When we reuse something, we find ways to use it again. Our old clothes, books, and toys could be given away to friends or secondhand stores. Some people are working to upcycle things that used to be thrown in the trash. Upcycling involves turning old materials into something new and even better. An old sheet of bubble wrap could be turned into a purse, or a pile of old license plates could be made into a lunchbox. Instead of throwing things away, we can find fun and creative ways of using them again.
Recycling is just one small part of rethinking how we use our natural resources. Almost half of the things we throw in the landfill could be recycled. Recycling involves taking something old and making it into something new. Materials like paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic can be broken down and built back up to make new products. Some of these materials are recycled into the same material (glass can be made into more glass), while others are made into something different (plastic bottles can be turned into carpeting, Frisbees, and synthetic fleece). When we make items from recycled materials, we use less energy and natural resources than when we make things from scratch. Making products from recycled materials also reduces the amount of air and water pollution we create.
Earth Day was started in 1970 to set aside a day to appreciate and become aware of the environment. We don’t have to wait until April 22nd to celebrate Earth. Every day, we can reduce, reuse, and recycle.