Why is recycling better than sending rubbish to landfills?

In an ideal world, TerraCycle would not exist. Our programmes are a response to the environmental problem of rubbish that has been growing since the 1950s.

We believe there should be no such thing as waste. In fact, by advocating for less consumption and helping companies make their products reusable or locally recyclable, we’re working towards a future in which our recycling programmes are no longer needed.

More people need to stop seeing disposability as a convenience to make this happen. Here are some facts about landfills that you can share with your friends next time you see them choose single-use products or packaging that will wind up in landfills when they’re finished:

  1. Landfills are not designed to break down and decompose materials. Waste is tightly compacted and then buried in the earth. The lack of oxygen and light means that the waste breaks down much slower. (This is why compostable or biodegradable rubbish won’t biodegrade in a landfill). It’s still unknown exactly how long it takes, but it’s estimated that a plastic bottle will take up to 450 years to decompose, whereas other plastics items are predicted to break down over 1000 years. Because landfills break down at such a slow rate, they release methane, which is more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This methane is continually produced for however long it takes materials to decompose, which can be hundreds of years and is a primary contributor to global warming.
  2. Every time we create a new product or material, we need to extract natural resources from the earth. Energy is used not only to extract natural resources but also to turn them into a new product. When we recycle something, we’re reusing that material instead of extracting new materials from the earth. When something goes directly to landfills or is incinerated, we waste all of the natural resources, energy, and material that has been used to create it. 
  3. As landfills break down, they produce “leachate,” a liquid that is then pumped out of landfills and treated as hazardous waste. However, many landfills leak leachate, which seeps into the ground and can flow into our waterways. Studies have found that leachate can contain microplastics, which ultimately end up in the food and water consumed by all living beings. 

Plus, did you know that recycling also saves energy? According to Stanford University,  manufacturing the second time is much cleaner and less energy-intensive than the first. For example, manufacturing with recycled aluminium cans uses 95% less energy than creating the same amount of new aluminium.

Encourage those around you to try to incorporate at least one of the Rs into their daily life. When it comes time to “recycle,” encourage them to check if their municipal recycling service accepts an item. If it’s not, chances are they can recycle it through TerraCycle.

Your actions might help create a new habit and reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills.

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