Recycling Isn't a New Concept Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1511 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues

Recycling isn't a new concept in the U.S.; there are people and organizations that have been recycling newspapers, aluminum, steel and other materials for decades. But with the advent of the green revolution, and with corporate American now competing to see which company can seem the greenest to that captive and willing consumer audience out there, recycling has turned a page and is now very much in vogue. Recycling used to be something that hippies, nerds, eco-activists and a few progressive people did because it was the right thing to do. But now it is becoming middle America friendly. And as more cities follow the lead of San Francisco - which had banned the use of plastic bags in grocery and retail stores - the citizens of the U.S. will of necessity become more and more conscious of the need to reuse and conserve, as part of the bigger issue, dramatic climate change and its ramifications for the planet. The thesis is: there needs to be a massive and believable public service campaign so that people can become far more well-informed about all things "green" and about "recycling" than they are today.


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The Washington Post recently published a very effective feature called "More Than Meets the Eye" - part of a graphic illustration called "Paper or Plastic?" The point of the illustration is that both paper and plastic "...gobble up natural resources and cause significant pollution." The Post suggests choosing a reusable alternative; "Each high-quality reusable bag has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime," the Post argues. So in this case the word "recycle" would become "reuse." But some people, according to the newspaper, still believe that plastic bags can be recycled, and that is true but it's a very expensive process. It can cost $4,000 to process and recycle a single ton of plastic bags.

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In fact, the article contends, an estimated 4 billion plastic bags end up as trash every year; if those 4 billion bags were tied end to end, they would circle the earth 63 times. Plastic bags are made out of polyethylene, which is an oil byproduct. So for those people who have a shared goal to get the U.S. out of the oil business, and have the U.S. become energy independent (not needing to buy oil from Saudi Arabia or Kuwait), using plastic bags at the grocery store is not advancing their cause. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the 100 billion plastic bags that Americans use each year, the article explains. The other sad side to the plastic bag story is that "hundreds of thousands of marine mammals die every year after eating discarded plastic bags," the Post asserts. Turtles think the bags are jellyfish, and other animals eat the bags and choke on them.

Meantime, some people believe using paper at the grocery store is better than using plastic. But paper bags are made from wood of course, and the energy needed to produce them is significant. Moreover, while paper can be recycled, it's expensive and most recycled bags become cardboard, not new paper bags, according to the article. And the worst part of using paper bags is that it doesn't break down in landfills "because of the lack of water, light, oxygen and other necessary elements." The bottom line of this article is simple: purchase reusable cotton shopping bags and take them to the store every time you shop.

Another positive thing people can do besides buying reusable shopping bags is to avoid buying items that have plastic packaging. Recently a great deal of publicity has come out that sheds negative light on bottled water purchased in plastic containers. Recycling plastic containers is expensive, it requires the use of large amounts of water, and there is significant pollution associated with the process. That having been said, an article in the journal Scientist (Reilly, 2007) asserts that there is "a new generation of plastics recycling plants" that will use technologies "that reduce or even eliminate the need for water." And moreover, these new plants will produce plastic that is "clean enough for food packaging," and will operate at a lower cost than existing technologies. Gary DeLaurentiis ran a water-based plastic recycling plant in Ohio in the 1990s, until it was shut down after being fined frequently for polluting the water that had been used in the process. That made him want to examine new and better ways to recycle plastic, and today DeLaurentiis is working at ECO2 Plastics in Riverbank, California, and has helped devise ways to recycle plastic bottles without using water, and hence, without dumping waste into rivers. There are now eight of these new cleaner plants around the world, Reilly explains. If there is money to be made in recycling plastic bottles, and it can be done in a way that does not pollute rivers and require huge amounts of energy, then that is a hopeful sign.

It is always a hopeful sign when young schoolchildren are brought into the consciousness of green living and recycling. An article in the Arizona Republic (Zlomek 2007) points to a field trip that elementary schoolchildren took in Surprise, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix), to help break ground on "an environmentally friendly shopping plaza." The students from Dysart, Ashton Ranch, and Sunset Hills schools qualified to be part of the groundbreaking ceremonies because they participated in a successful plastic-bottle recycling program in their schools. "The goal is to teach children that they can make a difference, whether it is something small like recycling a bottle, or something big," like this shopping center (which qualifies as a LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - facility), according to Jason Savell, the developer.

Another aspect of using recycling is presented in the Web site (Schussler 2007); this article reports on a Canadian couple that started their own company to recycle fluorescent and HID light bulbs. This is a delicate process, the article explains, because the dust inside fluorescent bulbs is actually a phosphor that contains "high levels of mercury"; indeed, one four-foot fluorescent tube "contains enough mercury to pollute 30,000 liters of water. Instead of allowing the tossing of these bulbs into landfills, as had been the policy, John Brodner and his wife Kelly bought an expensive processing machine that separates components of the fluorescent tubes and now they have a large number of clients in Manitoba, Canada, including school districts, factories and large superstores. How did he get the idea? Brodner said, "A lot of it is attributed to the Al Gore movie...everyone wants to be environmentally responsible now."

Another Canadian company, Earthcycle, which is located in Vancouver, is marketing "cardboard-like packages made out of the husks that are a by-product of palm oil production" (Marshall 2007). These packages can be found holding cherry tomatoes and other produce in whole food grocery stories in North America, the article in New Scientist explains. Earthcycle is just one of a number of companies that are offering alternative packaging made from recycled materials, the article explains. Wal-Mart is using the same materials as Earthcycle "in a completely home-compostable package for kiwi fruit," Marshall writes; and covering the kiwi fruit is a "compostable plastic film made from eucalyptus wood pulp."

Meanwhile, an article in Industry News, a publication of Pollution Engineering ("Don't Throw Out the Bathwater") reports that there is money to be made in the water recycling business. Indeed, the article states, "The total value of the U.S. water recycling and reuse industry was $2.2 billion in 2005." By 2010, the total market revenue may reach $3.3 billion, given an average annual growth rate of 8.8%. This reflects that "significant innovation is still occurring," which makes technologies more accessible to "a greater number… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Recycling Isn't a New Concept" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Recycling Isn't a New Concept.  (2007, December 5).  Retrieved September 19, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Recycling Isn't a New Concept."  5 December 2007.  Web.  19 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Recycling Isn't a New Concept."  December 5, 2007.  Accessed September 19, 2020.