Americans use a lot of stuff in our everyday lives. If everyone recycled we would make a lot less garbage and use a lot less resources. Recycling works in a loop, but it only works if all parts of the loop are going. The first part of the loop is when people, like you, recycle paper, bottles, cans, and plastics. The next part is when the recycled things get collected, cleaned, and sold to factories that can use them. Then the recyclables are made into new products like newspapers, carpets, and plastic tubs. Then people, like you, buy them again! That is the recycling loop. Whenever you buy a recycled product you are helping close the recycling loop. By recycling just 4 feet of paper, you could save one tree. If everyone in the United States recycled their newspaper just one day a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year. That's a whole forest! According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2005, Americans who recycled and composted stopped 64 million tons of stuff from going to landfills or being burned. That's 174 billion pounds of trash in one year alone! Recycling has an effect, and every little bit of recycling helps.
To do their job, the tiny organisms that turn plant waste into valuable compost need a blend of fresh green plants, dead brown plants, air, and water. Can you pick the six puzzle pieces that fit together to make the compost bin below? Careful — some of the pieces are turned!
Americans recycled and conserved when we entered WWII (World War 2) in Europe, which lasted from 1939–1945. This was because some products, like meat, coffee, sugar, and tires became in short supply. But after the war, people became richer and they stopped worrying about resources as much. It was more than twenty years before people began to think “green” again. In the 1960s, the “environmental movement” started making people aware of how we were hurting the environment. People became more aware about littering, saving energy, growing organic foods, and recycling. But it would be another twenty years before it got expensive to take garbage to the landfills. That was what really got many people recycling. Today a lot of Americans do recycle. The EPA calculates that Americans recycle about ⅓ of their waste. Though recycling has increased, it is not something people have to do, so there is a lot more that people can do to conserve and reuse our valuable recourses.
Help with Recycling
Different states and towns have different recycling programs. Here are some tips to find out how to recycle where you live.
Call your local recycling, solid waste, or public works department to find out what recycling programs are in your town.
Ask your trash collector or at the local landfill about recycling in your area. Your state's environmental agency can help. To find out who and where they are check this Web site:
If you are trying to recycle something big, like a washing machine, call the store where you bought it for information about how to recycle it.
If you want to recycle electronic equipment, like computers, you can go to this Web site:
The Compost Test
Make some compost this winter in a small tub or pile in your yard. Follow the instructions on page 71 for a successful compost mix. You know your compost is ready when it is dark and earthy, like the inside of a chocolate cake.
In the spring dig a little garden spot in your yard, or use an existing garden spot or two big clay pots on your porch.
You will need two spots of about the same size. They can be small for this test, just 1–2 square feet. You'll need a garden shovel and some flower seeds (or two small flowering plants of about the same size from your local nursery).
Use your garden shovel and loosen up the soil in your two garden spots. If you are using two pots, fill both of them with soil right from your yard.
In one spot (or one pot) mix in some of the dark compost. Mix it up well with your shovel.
Now plant seeds (or a flowering plant) in each spot. Water them well.
Over the next few weeks, keep both spots equally watered and weeded.
After a few weeks do you notice a difference in how the seeds or a difference in how plants are doing? Which one is doing better? Can you explain this difference?