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America Recycles Day: Reflecting on Recycling

POSTED UNDER Recycling & Waste Reduction

Every year, Americans generate about 254 million tons of trash, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And while about 87 million tons of that gets recycled, that’s a rate of only 34 percent – and one that hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years.

Nov. 15 is America Recycles Day. Created by Keep America Beautiful and held annually, it’s designed to raise awareness, increase access and convert occasional recyclers to committed everyday recyclers. As you’ve probably guessed, America Recycles Day is dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States, with thousands of communities across the country promoting environmental citizenship and taking action to increase and improve recycling efforts.

Whether you recycle a little, a lot, or just wish you had better access to recycling, it’s your chance to learn more, do more and make a difference in your community.

By the Numbers

In 2015, America Recycles Day events collected more than 262 million pounds of items for recycling and reusing through more than 2,000 community events, including Recycle-Bowl, RecycleMania, and The Great American Cleanup.

With more than 6,000 recycling ambassadors committed to educating, simplifying and unifying recycling messaging and approaches, America Recycles Day engages more than 5.5 million students from kindergarten through college every year.

By supporting public space recycling in parks, parking lots, street corners, and other public spaces, the program has provided more than 1 million people with daily access to on-the-go recycling since 2010. So that recycling bin in your local park? You’re welcome.

Why We’re Not Recycling More

So why is our national rate of recycling so low compared to other nations, like Germany (62 percent) and South Korea (49 percent)? According to The Economist, low landfill fees and a fragmented waste management system that leaves 25 percent of the population with virtually no access to curbside recycling have kept our national recycling rate well below the rate of most developed countries – and the waste comes at a cost.

We throw away more than $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging every year, according to advocacy group As You Sow. This creates a tremendous negative impact on the economy – not to mention the planet. For example, making cans from recycled aluminum (the most valuable container material), requires 95 percent less energy and creates 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than new “virgin” material. And right now in the United States, we’re throwing away more than 40 billion (yes, with a B) aluminum cans every year.

What You Can Do

There are lots of ways to do your part for this important annual event:

We have a long way to go, but there are so many easy ways to be a part of the solution for a greener world. Join in!


You might also like:

Associate Spotlight: Janet Saunders Tackles an Environmental Menace

Recycling 911: Find Out What You Can (and Can’t) Recycle

9 Green Mistakes You’re Probably Making


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