What happens if we don’t recycle? If people stopped recycling, there would undoubtedly be several awful impacts on the environment, economy, and society. This thought exercise can help us better understand the importance of recycling and its role in creating a sustainable future.
By exploring the potential consequences of ceasing recycling, we can gain a greater appreciation for the benefits of recycling and the need to continue supporting this critical responsibility as global citizens.
We’ve thought through seven negative impacts if we all just stopped recycling.
Trash, Trash, Everywhere
Without recycling, more waste would be sent to landfills, which are already overflowing in many parts of the world. This would create a significant environmental problem, as landfills take up space and generate greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Environment Center at UC Boulder, as of April 2021, the United States had over 3,000 active and 10,000 closed landfills. By their calculations, this means that 1,800,000 acres of habitat have been lost. Imagine how that number would grow if we collectively stopped recycling. And, at least in the U.S., closed landfills require monitoring for perpetuity to check for leakage, emissions, and other potentially harmful affects to the environment and surround population.
The Depletion of Our Invaluable Resources
Recycling helps to conserve natural resources by reducing the demand for new raw materials. Without recycling, it would put more pressure on the world’s finite resources, such as forests, fossil fuels, minerals, and water. This could lead to resource depletion and environmental degradation.
Recycling helps reduce pollution by reducing the need for waste incineration and reducing the environmental impacts of resource extraction and processing. What happens if we don’t recycle is more waste would be incinerated or sent to landfills, increasing air and water pollution all over the world.
Recycling is also a key factor in helping combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So what happens if we don’t recycle? It would increase the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming.
Need a refresher on what we mean by greenhouse gasses? Greenhouse gasses are gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat from the sun, causing the Earth’s temperature to rise. The most important greenhouse gasses are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. Landfills emit vast quantities of greenhouse gasses which is another good reason to reduce our dependence on landfills.
While greenhouse gasses are naturally present and play a critical role in regulating the Earth’s temperature, human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, have significantly increased the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. This has led to global warming and significant climate change.
The Global Economy
The recycling industry is a significant contributor to the global economy, generating billions of dollars in revenue and creating jobs for workers in various roles. If recycling went away, it would have substantial negative impacts on the economy, reducing demand for recycled materials and resulting in job losses in many sectors, including collection, sortation, processing and manufacturing. At Polly Products, we would have nothing to offer as we would be all out of materials for our products too!
A Significant Loss of Biodiversity
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth, including the different species of plants, animals, and microorganisms and the ecosystems they inhabit. Biodiversity is important because it provides numerous benefits to humans, such as food, medicine, and ecosystem services. Biodiversity is also essential for the health and functioning of ecosystems, as it helps maintain the balance of nature and supports the survival of all species involved.
Recycling helps reduce the loss of biodiversity which results from the environmental impacts of resource extraction and processing. For example, the destruction of forests for paper and wood products can lead to the loss of habitat for plants and animals. If we all stopped recycling, it would increase the pressure on natural habitats, potentially leading to biodiversity loss.
The Social Connection
Recycling helps to create a more sustainable, responsible, and eco-friendly society. Ceasing recycling would degrade social norms and values, potentially leading to a less sustainable and environmentally responsible society.
The end of recycling is unfathomable. What happens when we don’t recycle is substantially increase waste, depleted natural resources, pollution of the environment around the globe, negative contribution to climate change, negative economic impacts, loss of biodiversity, and negative social impacts. Therefore, we need to continue recycling to protect our planet and create a sustainable future for all of the earth’s inhabitants. After all, we are all in this together!
At Polly Products, we are proud of our continued efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Our green promise to our customers is our commitment to environmental preservation and using only recycled materials. We specialize in tertiary recycling and are proud to share that our products are built from 100% recycled plastics, just like the ones found and used in your house on a daily basis.
Check out our whole catalog of products created from recycled plastic components we proudly manufacture right here in mid-Michigan. Polly Products will stand the test of time.