Recycling and reusing have been a method in consideration for a very long time now. Ever since the thought of global warming has emerged, recycling and reusing have been a simple yet effective way to reduce waste. But have you ever bought anything online and become so excited about what is to come? When it arrives from the mail, you overcome the joy of the contents that lay inside. You rip open the box that you have been waiting for the last couple of days and you grab what is inside and forget all about the packaging that kept your product safe, thus you throw the package straight to the garbage bin. Which begs the question, does packaging recycling programs work? I believe that packaging recycling programs do work, and I also believe that recycling packaging and containers makes a greater impact within our environment and economy.

First of all, the United States Environmental Protection Agency deemed containers and packaging as the product that are assumed to be discarded the same year the products they contain are purchased. This means that packaging and containers make up a major proportion of municipal solid waste. In 2017, the municipal solid waste amounted up to 80.1 million tons of generation. Although container and packaging products make up a major part of municipal waste, container and packaging are among the most recycled products in the United States. During a study about container and packaging products in 2017, the recycling rate of container and packaging products was 50.1 percent. Furthermore, 23 percent of container and packaging waste went through combustion for energy recovery. That is over 7.9 million tons of containers and packaging that is turned into energy. On the other hand, landfills receive 32.1 million tons which are 23 percent of total landfilling in 2017. Based on a graph created by the EPA, it shows a huge increase in the amount of recycling and combustion with energy recovery in container and packaging waste management. Additionally, that graph has been increasing ever since 1960 when the first statistic was conducted. Statistically, packaging recycling programs have been working and at the same time increasing ever since the 1960s.

Second of all, over 90 percent of all products shipped throughout the US are shipped in corrugated boxes, which totals more than 400 billion square feet of cardboard. Furthermore, corrugated boxes were the largest single product category of municipal solid waste in 2017 at 32.5 million tons generated. Although, corrugated boxes also are the largest single product of recycled waste. During a conducted test by the EPA in 2017, approximately 28.8 million tons of corrugated boxes were recycled out of the 30.1 million tons of waste that were generated. Believe it or not, with the amount of recycled corrugated boxes that we have generated, we are creating a healthier environment. With the number of cardboard boxes that we recycle, we are saving trees. Cardboard is like any other recyclable paper-based products. That means that cardboard boxes are made from tree pulp which can be recycled into new paper products five to seven times before its fibers become too short to be able to be reusable. Besides, recycling cardboard only takes 75 percent of the energy needed to make new cardboard. When cardboard can no longer be reusable and its fibers become too short, the cardboard becomes into balled OCC or old corrugated cardboard. This OCC weighs about 20 tons and for every ton of cardboard waste, we would save about 17 trees. Also, for every ton of cardboard, we would save 46 gallons of oil. Furthermore, for every ton of cardboard, we would save 7,000 gallons of water, as the process to create wood pulp from virgin trees uses thousands of gallons of water. In 2012, recycling prevented 168 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emission, which is comparable to taking 33 million passenger vehicles off the road.

Finally, recycling containers and packaging have created a better economy. Recycling has become a $200 billion industry that keeps increasing due to the increase of recycling that the United States has produced. America’s recycling industry accounted for over $236 billion in annual revenue in 2001. In 2010, the United States recycling industry sold over 44 million metric tons of recycled materials which were valued at almost $30 billion to over 154 counties. These packaging recycling programs also create more jobs. Household, commercial and drop-off recyclables all go to a Material Recovery Facility and these facilities create jobs for more than 15,000 truckers and 50,000 to 60,000 employs in the United States. Also, by 2030 the recycling rate of the United States would increase to 75% which would create 1.1 million jobs. The packaging recycling programs are also better than the US Solid Waste Management at creating jobs, as the US Recycling Industry employed 1.25 million people whereas the US Solid Waste Management industry employed only 0.25 million people.

\ In conclusion, packaging recycling programs do work. Not only does the recycling programs have been increasing in recycling, but it has also been a great improvement in the economy and the environment. Packaging recycling programs have created a better environment by creating an alternative solution to creating new products that need less energy to make, thus creating less carbon emission in the atmosphere. This has reduced the effect of greenhouses gases creating a better environment and overall a better future. Packaging recycling programs have also created a better economy by creating jobs and increasing revenue. With the increased effectiveness of packaging recycling programs, it can only result in an even better economy. Thus, going back to the question. Do packaging recycling programs work? The answer is yes, it works very effectively.

Recycling Facts

Containers and Packaging Specific Data

Environmental Impact of Recycling Cardboard

How Better Recycling Can Minimize Waste and Boost the Economy

Essay by: Marc Craeg Cabuguas Sagario
Window Rock High School

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