The American Recycling Crisis


A year ago, China completely cut off ties with the United States and other countries and banned the import of recycling materials such as plastic, cardboard, glass, and mixed papers. For years, China has been the leading destination for recyclables, however, the ban has left many countries scrambling and trying to figure out how to discard their recyclable waste. For many years before the ban, China was processing the reusable materials into high quality manufacturing materials. However, countries were making a habit out of recycling products that can not be properly recycled, leaving Chinese men and women to sit and pick through tons and tons of our trash. But now, they are fed up.

The question now arises, “Where will all this plastic and cardboard go?”

NPR says, “Some 70 percent of the world’s plastic waste went to China – about 7 million tons a year”, and now all of this plastic waste is piling up. Efforts are being taken to burn or bury the plastic, but both of these practices are detrimental to the environment. Every year, 300 million tons of plastic are produced by the United States alone and 8 million of those are dumped into the ocean.

This is a true crisis that will not be solved unless people take a stand and are willing to work a little harder to save the earth. It is time for Americans to be educated on what you can and cannot recycle. The Atlantic confirms over 25% of what Americans put in the blue bins is contaminated (or dirty) and cannot be recycled. The various dyes and chemicals that are used in plastics often determine which recycling facilities can and can’t handle them. And of course, some Americans just treat their recycling bin as a second garbage can.

The community needs to work together and step up to the plate when it comes to recycling. The American recycling system is built off the idea that people can take natural resources, use them once, and toss them to the side. This mentality is why our earth is suffering.

Progression in recycling is only the first step, but it is a crucial necessity for our environment.