Could recycling be harming the environment more than helping?

Could recycling be harming the environment more than helping? Evidence shows that while most think it’s the best option for getting rid of trash, the system isn't all that it’s cracked up to be. Between expenses, impracticality, and how much it harms the environment in the sake of saving the atmosphere, people have been blinded into thinking this system does no wrong.

First and foremost, there’s expenses. One ton of glass costs up to 90 dollars to process, but it can only be sold for ten. To save even one ton of carbon dioxide in the air, you would need to process three tons of glass. Every ton of carbon dioxide you’re saving costs 240 dollars, which doesn’t include the resources you use to clean them, break them down, repair your recycling bins, the machinery, and pay their workers. The cost and impracticality of this system makes it hard for any company to implement without losing a large sum of profit.

Recycling also does more harm than good in the environment by spreading contamination, creating more pollutants, and destroying ecosystems to create biodegradable products. Some recycling plants cause more exhaust than they save to run their machines; such as those in Idaho and Washington state, who individually cause more carbon emission than any other facility in the region. Using substitutes for plastic isn’t good for the areas those ‘substitutes’ are taken from. Eucalyptus trees being made into a degradable glitter can take a home from animals that depend on those trees for food, like Koalas, Greater Gliders, and Ringtail Possums. Even replacing trees with rubber is bad for the rubber trees population, which is rapidly dropping in numbers.

The biggest issue seems to be plastic, but what if you’d been told most plastic isn’t even recyclable? Out of the seven plastics you can find, only two types can be reused, and the rest either thrown into landfills, burned, or mixed with paper sludge. Because the majority of sorting those plastics are done by hand, you could end up with a recycled product with breakable, flimsy, and chemical filled materials. Recycling aluminum cans is causing the demand for aluminum to deplete, and workers from the mines have to compensate by working longer hours for less pay whilst trying to find more of the aluminum that you need for airplanes, cars, and weapons.

Despite the evidence suggesting recycling is doing more harm than good in the environment, those eco-friendly facilities are profiting off the people’s unawareness. These spaces cause at least ten more problems than they solve, but the community is so transfixed on the good that they don’t realize how bad this is. Hopefully one day people realize how much trauma recycling really causes around the globe.