Click on the links below to go to the section of the page that corresponds with that heading about recycling.
- It's Quick
- Recycling is Economical
- Recycling Saves Natural Resources
- Recycling Saves Energy
- Recycling Makes Sense
Most curbside recycling programs in Utah offer what is called a co-mingled system of recycling. The first curbside programs required residents to sort their recyclables into two different containers. One container was for fiber, (newspaper, magazines, cardboard, junkmail) and the other was for containers, (bottles, aluminum cans, steel cans, etc.). A co-mingled system does not require separation. That separation is performed in a recycling processing plant called a MRF which is short for a "materials recovery facility." MRF's can be either clean MRFs or dirty MRFs. A clean MRF is one which simply sorts out recyclable materials. A dirty MRF is one where all the garbage comes into and workers sort the recyclable materials from the trash. Utah does not have any dirty MRFs.
Recycling in a co-mingled system is quick since people now put their recyclable material into one container where it is later sorted at a "clean" MRF facility.
Recycling, particularly household curbside recycling, will generally always cost money. This is because a driver and a truck must pick it up, take it to a MRF, process the recyclables into their categories, newspaper into newspaper, cardboard into cardboard, aluminum cans with aluminum cans, etc. The MRF will then bale the materials in a large baling machine and then load it on to a train car or a truck where it is shipped (mostly out of Utah) to a manufacturer or mill who will use it to make new newspapers, cardboard, or aluminum cans. As you can see, there are a few steps involved in getting your can recycled and made into a new can. Each step costs money to perform.
However, there is a cost to throw material away into the garbage. Landfills today must be lined with special material so nothing can escape underneath which might contaminate ground water (which we drink). Each day, after all the garbage is dumped in the landfill, landfill cover (mostly dirt) is used to cover the trash. There is a lot of man power and equipment involved in operating a landfill. Once a landfill is filled up, more dirt must be put on it and monitors must be put in place to make sure the landfill does not have any leaking through the liners. Creating, building, operating, and closing a landfill is very expensive. It is estimated that trash disposal costs the U.S. over $10 billion a year.
So while recycling costs money, so does throwing away trash. The trade off is that on average, recycling costs less in the long run than throwing our waste away into a landfill. If the life of a landfill can be extended, meaning if we can divert waste from our landfills so they can be open longer, residents can save lots of money. Recycling can help us divert trash from landfills and help save us money.
We can use old newspaper to make new newspaper or we can cut down trees to make new newspaper from virgin pulp. It is estimated that in America, loggers cut down two million trees every day, yet Americans throw away about 42 million newspapers every day.
In the early days of Utah, Brigham Young commissioned men to travel to the various towns by wagon to collect rags. This would take them considerable time to go to the few towns at the time to make these collections. The cotton fibers from the collected rags were used to make paper. Today, some of the most high quality paper available is made from cotton fibers. Even early Utahns recognized the need to conserve natural resources.
Even motor oil can be re-refined to make new motor oil. This process conserves what is considered more and more today a limited resource in oil reserves.
Did you know that by recycling an aluminum can, you help cut back on the energy it takes to make a new one. In fact, recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy it takes to make new aluminum from scratch or its original form which is bauxite ore. This means that you can make 20 cans out or recycled material with the same energy it takes to make one aluminum can out of new material. By recycling aluminum and other materials, you help reduce the need for more energy which in turn cuts down on air pollution and other things.
The same is true for the majority of recyclable materials. It takes far less energy from electricity, gas, or coal fired machines to make new products out of old products than it does to make new products from scratch or from their original composites.
Why throw something away when there is still some value to it? Unlike landfills, which pile up waste which will remain there forever, recycling removes waste completely, and then turns it back into something useful.
Recycling is really just common sense and is really the right thing to do with materials we use every day which can be used again.