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Environmental Benefits of Recycling

written by: Matt Schelke•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 6/27/2011

Everybody's talking about recycling, but does it really help the environment? It does, and in many more ways than you probably imagined.

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    If the green movement could be split up into eras, we’re currently in the recycling era. Across the U.S. and many parts of the world, more and more people are taking bottles, cardboard, glass, and many other materials to recycling centers. In cities and parks, we’re seeing more and more recycling bins with the trademark green arrows next to traditional trash cans. And each day we can recycle more materials. Besides the traditional bottles and paper-based products, we can now recycle computers, car parts, milk crates, and printer ink cartridges. If you can hold it, you can probably recycle it.

    Recycling has some obvious environmental benefits, but also some that are not so clear. This article will discuss the myriad ways in which recycling helps our environment.

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    Recycling Conserves Resources

    This one is self-evident. The more plastic, paper, metal, wood, etc. that you recycle the less we have to get from natural sources. Taking anything from an ecosystem usually damages it; thus, while recycling cannot reverse the damage already done, it can certainly prevent future damage.

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    Recycling Reduces Emissions and Saves Energy

    Production of finished goods from raw materials takes energy and emits harmful chemicals. When companies use recycled materials, processing time goes down, thus reducing the fumes that enter the atmosphere.

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    Recycling Reduces Landfill Waste

    One of the major problems with large-scale manufacturing is finding enough space to put products after the have been used. Landfills, the common solution, take up vast tracts of land, reducing the space available for plants to grow and animals to flourish. If you recycle, you can reduce the rate of landfill creation and thus help conserve wildlife habitat.

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    Recycling Can Stop Wars

    Didn’t see that one coming, did you? It’s true. Many wars, especially in developing countries, are fought over natural resources. If you recycle, you are helping to conserve natural resources and thus lower the chance that deadly resource wars will start.

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    Recycling Reduces Our Dependence on Foreign Oil

    Plastic bottles and many other products are manufactured using petroleum. Ignoring the complex political and economical issues of importing oil, reduce our dependence on imports decreases shipping costs and and the chemicals emitted by boat engines and other shipping machines.

    Clearly, recycling has many more environment benefits than are immediately apparent. Just by recycling a few bottles a week, you can do your share to help our fragile ecosystems.