What impact would it have on the planet if everybody recycled?
It is fair to say that if the entire world recycled absolutely everything, then the planet would be an entirely different place. But if our worldwide productive recycling strategies halted for a considerable amount of time this would be very damaging.
The most obvious difference we would see if everybody recycled in the world is how much cleaner the planet would be. With our minds set on recycling, nobody would litter plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, glass and more. Our roads, pavements and fields will be clear of recyclable waste and hopefully general waste as well.
Worldwide landfill sites would shrink considerably, which would not only create more room for non-recyclable waste but we would also see a noticeable drop in the release of harmful chemicals and gasses from landfill sites. Some plastics are particularly toxic, such as plastic shopping bags. After years of lying in landfill, harmful microscopic particles get released into the atmosphere, causing potential harm to animals and humans – this would end if all plastics were recycled.
It’s renowned that our oceans are currently littered with plastics which are simply dumped as an easy method of disposal – this is completely wrong. Marine animals are clearly open to harm and us humans that eat fish and other sea creatures are too if that particular animal has come into contact with waste plastic. Clear and clean oceans would be fantastic to see one day but for that to happen we need the world to recycle everything.
Plants and trees would also be positively affected if we all recycled. There would be less of a need for raw materials which would save trees and rainforests from being flattened. Recycling innovators, QCR point out that recycling a single glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-Watt light bulb, and that 28 billion glass bottles are sent to landfill every year. Imagine how much energy would be saved in the UK – and the potential worldwide – if all glass bottles were recycled. This is due to the fact that recycling requires a lot less energy than creating products from raw materials like trees. Cutting out processes like this would lower the world’s carbon footprint by an extraordinary amount.
The world is getting better at recycling but we are still decades from perfection. If our progress were to stall, then our oceans and landfill sites would continue to fill with poisonous plastics.
Three increases are happening worldwide which means we cannot afford to relax our attitude towards recycling.
Firstly the world’s population is increasing. High life expectancy levels means there are more people on Earth than ever before. More people results in more waste.
Secondly, the world is getting richer. More people can afford to buy products, which means an increase in packaging to house the products being purchased – most of which will be manufactured from or stored in plastic containers.
Lastly, in an increasingly fast paced world, workers and commuters are opting for the convenience and choosing to buy (packaged) food and drink on the go. Unfortunately, the side effect of the convenience culture is that more plastic is being produced and that this plastic is usually be disposed of in a curb side bin as opposed to being recycled. We currently don’t have enough bins dedicated to recycling in our towns and cities to solve this issue.
The problem of commuters dumping their waste packaging in ordinary bins can also be related to the majority of the world. Without the right processes and recycling education in place, we will continue to bin recyclables wherever is most convenient. Not many people at present will finish their food and carry empty packaging until they find a recycling bin. To solve this problem, our public bins need be more geared towards recycling with separate, well labelled sections.
In order to make serious progress with recycling, the world needs to understand the benefits if everybody did recycle and the damage that could be done if our progress falters.
Worldwide recycling may seem farfetched, but the potential should impact should not be dismissed. Plastic waste in particular is starting to be acknowledged by governments across the globe, with China banning waste plastic imports and the UK aiming to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042. It is slow progress but at least inroads are being made.