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Recycling Overhaul

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Abstract
Have you ever stopped for a second to reflect on a piece of cinema? Or more to the point reflected on an envisioned portrayal of mankind’s future? Well recently I have and two different depictions greatly jump out in my mind. First being the dystopian society of peace and security, or one in which mankind is traveling the universe and accomplishing miraculous feats. While having seemingly circumvented the current social, economic, and environmental predicaments we find ourselves in today. Second being an apocalyptic wasteland where war and famine have brought our race to its knees. Unlike the previous case no doubt a future where mankind’s arrogance, greed, short sightedness doomed the future of our race and planet. What could lead to such a drastically different scenarios? Where did these hypothetical futures diverge? Why did one path succeed with today’s problems and the other not? What it boils down to in my opinion is a successful management of resources. Having taken that second of reflection I realized recycling at its core is nothing more than a management of resources. Not only that, I believe it has the potential to solve many of the challenges we face today, while pointing us toward the path of a successful future. Therefore, I feel a drastic increase in community and national recycling could exponentially improve our unity with other citizens, bolster our economy, and protect our environment while strengthening it at the same time.

Recycling Overhaul:
Path to a Prosperous Future Have you ever stopped for a second to reflect on a piece of cinema? Or more to the point reflected on an envisioned portrayal of mankind’s future? Well recently I have and two different depictions greatly jump out in my mind. First being the dystopian society of peace and security, or one in which mankind is traveling the universe and accomplishing miraculous feats. While having seemingly circumvented the current social, economic, and environmental predicaments we find ourselves in today. Second being an apocalyptic wasteland where war and famine have brought our race to its knees. Unlike the previous case no doubt a future where mankind’s arrogance, greed, short sightedness doomed the future of our race and planet. What could lead to such a drastically different scenarios? Where did these hypothetical futures diverge? Why did one path succeed with today’s problems and the other not? What it boils down to in my opinion is a successful management of resources. Having taken that second of reflection I realized recycling at its core is nothing more than a management of resources. Not only that, I believe it has the potential to solve many of the challenges we face today, while pointing us toward the path of a successful future. Therefore, I feel a drastic increase in community and national recycling could exponentially improve our unity with other citizens, bolster our economy, and protect our environment while strengthening it at the same time. To begin with however we will review current recycling practices from the United States. On the national level the Environmental Protection Agency handles many issues including the regulation of hazardous wastes, landfill regulations, and setting recycling goals. More specific recycling legislation is localized through city or state governments. Further regulation is reserved for individual states to create. The regulation of recycling in most states falls into two major categories: landfill bans and recycling goals. States with landfill bans make it illegal to dispose of many recyclable items in a landfill. Most often these items include yard waste, oil, and recyclables easily collected in curbside recycling programs.
There were about 9,000 curbside recycling programs in the United States in 2009. While other states focus on recycling goals and encouraging the public to make better choices. Some ways that states encourage recycling of specific drink containers is by passing a bottle bill. These programs entice participation by offering refund values for a variety of drink containers; usually 5 or 10 cent per unit. Some U.S. cities have even adopted mandatory recycling programs such as Seattle and New York. Even most places without mandated laws in effect have educational and volunteer programs to help increase recycling. It’s also worth pointing out that across all of the European Union mandatory recycling has been in place since the 90’s. Fines can even be levied on businesses after multiple infractions. In retrospect these fines carry little weight being that they are very minimal fines.
Despite all these programs the statistics show we are still wasting a lot. (Keep America Beautiful) Americans only managed to recover 34% of waste generated in 2009. That means we threw away 161 million tons of material, which amounts to about three pounds of garbage per person per day. In 2009, Americans recycled 82 million tons of materials. The resulting CO2 emission reduction is equivalent to taking 33 million passenger vehicles off the road. So where do we begin the process of fine tuning our programs to benefit our future?
The power always lies with the people. A green revolution is needed to inspire and invigorate our collective consciousness to point us in a good heading for the future. We need to create a green black hole and reach its event horizon. In layman’s terms the event horizon of a black hole is the point at which no matter can escape the pull of its gravitational force. In every successful social revolution there is a point at which the collective power of the movement overcomes its obstacles and succeeds.
One great example would be our country’s civil rights movement. (Morris & Clawson, 2005) In 1955, African Americans in the U.S. faced seemingly impossible conditions, but a decade later a mass movement had won their community impressive victories. They tore down the Jim Crow laws they had stifled them since the end of the civil war. So how is this kind of revolution pertinent to recycling movement? When a movement wins, even partially, it transforms laws, organizational structures, and popular understanding. Positions against civil rights that had seemed utopian 50 years ago now appear beyond debate (Morris & Clawson, 2005). In looking back at the civil rights movement, it is important we recognize how much has changed, and not assume that everyone saw and opposed injustices that now seem glaringly evident. Nor should we give into the premise of recycling being a pipe dream that is more costly than beneficial as some would detract.
The largest financial argument against recycling is that if it was financially viable there would be no need for government mandates on recycling. However this is an opinion that seems more often than not to come from those who are least affected by waste, or profit from the money saved by corporations who see waste management costs as unnecessary. However our own government has the proof of the economic benefits. The U.S. Recycling Economic Information (REI) Study was commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with numerous states to determine the economic benefits of recycling to the national economy. The study was completed in 2001. (Platt & Morris, 1993) According to the study, the recycling and reuse industry nationwide includes more than 56,000 establishments. Together the businesses employ 1.1 million people, generate an annual payroll of $37 billion and gross $236 billion in annual sales. The REI Study also shows that another 1.4 million jobs are “indirectly” supported by the recycling and reuse industry, resulting in an annual payroll of about $52 billion and about $173 billion in annual receipts. Spending by employees of the recycling and reuse industry leads to another 1.5 million jobs with an annual payroll of $41 billion and annual receipts of $146 billion. In addition, the recycling and reuse industry generated about $12.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes. But these gains pale in comparison to the environmental benefits of a well-run recycling program.
Participating in the green movement will save 15 trees from being destroyed if we recycle only 1 ton of paper. Does 1 ton sound like a lot? Maybe…but not when you consider that approximately 1.5 million tons of construction products are made each year from paper, including insulation, gypsum wallboard, roofing paper, flooring, padding and sound-absorbing materials. In the United States 56 % of the paper used was recovered for recycling during the last year. This paper when recycled produces almost 74% less pollution than making new paper and almost 50 % less water is required for this purpose. Almost 48% of the paper recycled from the offices is again use to produce tissues, raw material used for paperboard and for printing purpose. These are just the benefits of recycling paper. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to environmental benefits.
It seems almost ridiculous to imagine the benefit we would be giving our future generations with an overhauled recycling system. Its impacts on our society, economy, and environment can be astronomical. Or a sad reminder of our failures and inability to curtail our greed and set ourselves in the right direction for the future.

References
Keep America Beautiful. Recycling facts and statistics. Retrieved from http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=recycling_facts_and_stats
Morris, A. & Clawson, D. (2005, December). Lessons of the civil rights movement for building a worker rights movement. Working USA, 8(6), p.683-704.
Platt, B., & Morris, D. (1993, February 23). The economic benefits of recycling. Retrieved from http://www.ilsr.org/the-economic-benefits-of-recycling/…...

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