Recycling isn’t a new idea. In fact, many of us have been recycling for decades. We’re making a difference, but it’s not enough. The average person in the Kansas City metro still throws out about 7 pounds of waste every day. And when 41 percent of waste in the landfill is paper, we know we can do better. We just need to know how, and start making those changes. Every small step makes a huge difference, and there are more opportunities to recycle more products today than ever before.
Why is recycling important?
Most people see recycling as a way to “protect the environment,” but there’s more to it than that. Recycling is important because it benefits our economy, protects our health and preserves our resources:
Recycling is a significant force in the US economy and makes a vital contribution to job creation, business expansion, tax revenues, and overall economic development.
Extracting and processing natural resources to make products and disposing of them in a landfill when we’re done with them creates pollution that affects the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we use to grow our food. Recycling decreases resource extraction and processing and therefore pollution.
Recycling conserves energy, landfill space and natural resources such as timber, water and minerals.
What is the recycling process?
Recycling includes the following four steps:
Step 1: Collection
There are several methods for collecting recyclables, including:
Drop-off recycling centers
Deposit / refund programs
Step 2: Processing
After collection, recyclables are sent to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to be sorted, cleaned, and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing. There are three MRFs that serve the Kansas City metro area. This Waste Management video shows the step-by-step process of how materials are processed once they reach a facility.
Step 3: Manufacturing
More and more of today's products are being manufactured with recycled content. You probably already buy products with recycled-content and just don’t know it. Common household items that contain recycled materials include:
Laundry detergent bottles
Recycled materials are also used in new ways such as recovered glass in asphalt to pave roads or recovered plastic in carpeting and park benches.
Step 4: Purchasing Recycled-Content Products
You’re not really recycling unless you are buying recycled, i.e., “closing the loop.” A recycled product is a product made in whole or in part from material recovered from the waste stream. Recycled-content products are comparable in price and quality to products made from virgin materials. Buying recycled content products creates long-term markets for recyclable materials.
When you shop, look for:
Products that can be easily recycled.
Products that contain recycled content.
Look for products with the highest pos-tconsumer content.
Where does recycling fit in the bigger picture?
Recycling is just one component in the Waste Management Hierarchy which the EPA developed to rank the most environmentally sound strategies for managing municipal solid waste, more commonly known as trash or garbage. The highest designation is waste reduction (source reduction): if waste is not produced then it doesn’t have to be disposed. When waste is produced, it gives precedence to preparing it for reuse, then recycling/composting, then energy recovery, and last of all treatment and disposal.