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The effects of not recycling

Updated July 19, 2017

Recycling is one of the three R's of waste management, along with reuse and reduce. Currently about one-third of America's waste is recycled annually. Among scientists and environmental activists, the consensus is that recycling programs need to expand. So you may be wondering what the effects would be on our environment if people were not recycling.

Trash Today

In 2007, over 254 million tons of municipal solid waste was collected, according to the EPA. 85 million tons of that waste were recycled or composted.

Trash in the Future

The amount of trash that the United States produces has tripled in the past 50 years. At that rate, we will be producing nearly a billion tons of trash a year by 2060.

The Land is Full

Landfills are running out of room for waste, and some states are running out of space for landfills. If we do not recycle more (as well as reuse and reduce more often), we will soon be surrounded by our own waste.

Glass is 100% Recyclable

Americans use over 13 million tons of glass products annually, but only about 25 per cent is recycled. That means almost 10 million tons are being left in landfills, waterways and the wilderness. Glass takes thousands of years to biodegrade.

Yes, We Have Cans

If aluminium cans were not being recycled, there would be over 80 billion of them left in landfills and on land every year. It actually costs more, and it uses 95 per cent more energy to make new cans from raw materials.

No More Trees

Likewise, about 50 million tons of paper are recycled annually, but this is only about half of what is produced. If there was no paper recycling, we would lose 850 million more trees a year.

Taking the Oceans Over

There are already large "islands" of trash floating in the oceans. The tidal currents have collected it from around the world and it will continue to grow. Most of this trash is plastic which does not break down.

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About the Author

Based in Gloucester, Va., Janet Wooldridge is a freelance writer and proofreader who began writing professionally in 2008. Her work focuses on topics in education, environmentalism, child care, research and tourism. She holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in secondary education from the University of Florida.