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Cydney Powell
Professor Hamalian
ENGL 115
December 1, 2014
Recycling, The Worlds Greatest Myth
One of the major problems in our society today is the lack of awareness about the
declining of our natural resources. We see commercials that advise us to recycle, renew, and
reuse, but still we hardly listen to anything other than recycle. A lot of Americans find recycling
easy and morally rewarding. Personally, I even recycle myself. All of the water bottles in my
dorm are stored in a giant bag until Sunday when my roommates and I give the bag to an elderly
Asian woman who comes by looking in the trash cans. It feels good to help out another human
being and know that Im helping out the planet at the same time. However, unbeknownst to me
and millions of other people, Im actually doing more harm when I recycle than good. Recycling
is a billion dollar industry, just like oil and again like oil, it can easily become corrupt. It turns
out that a lot of what we are told about recycling, specifically plastic and bottles isnt true. In
fact, recycling water bottles and plastic alone is much more detrimental to the environment than
the average person is told. Due to the fact that Americans and just humans in general are being
lied to and tricked into the faade that is, recycling, I think we should end the useless parts of it.
Recycling is supposed to help us reduce the amount of pollution that we put into our air,
and our oceans, right? It turns out that in 2009 America had about 179,000 recycling and trash
collecting vehicles on the road. That means that each one of those huge trucks, was putting out
emissions that do absolutely no good for our air quality. Each of these trucks exhaust has three
dozen toxics including carbon monoxide and several pathogenic greenhouse gases. Were trying

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to reduce the amount of vehicles on the road to avoid worsening the issue of global warming and
these trucks are nothing but detrimental. Along with the added trucks that recycling puts in our
world, recycling requires factories and plants to do the dirty work at. Just like any other factory
or plant, their factories boast high levels of toxic emissions. In Washington State alone, a
recycling plant by the name of Saint-Gobain, releases the most gases in its region and continues
to do so, even after being fined almost 1 million dollars for violating the Clean Air Act. That
doesnt sound like something thats supposed to be helping the environment at all. Whatever
good that theyre supposed to be doing in that plant, is already outweighed by their continued
damage to the air that we, breathe.
What exactly does go on in these recycling plants anyway? Paper, glass, cardboard boxes,
and aluminum are some of the most common things that are recycled and when they are
collected, theyre turned right back into useful things for us. Or are they? Take paper, the easiest
and most frequent of the recycled materials, it is turned into something known as pulp. The paper
pulp gets washed so that all of the inks run off and that makes something called paper sludge.
This paper sludge is either burned, which puts yet even more toxins into the air or its sent to a
landfill. So even after all of the efforts into recycling paper, it ends right back with the trash
where you couldve initially tossed it in the first place. Then theres plastic. You come in contact
with about seven types of plastic in your everyday life yet, only two of these seven are
recyclable. You wont see that in any advertisement from a Green movement though. The other 5
plastics that cant be recycled are sent right to a landfill, along with paper sludge and the trash.
Youll also find plenty of plastic bags in landfills because it cost a whopping 4,000 dollars to
recycle a ton of them and a ton only sells for 32 dollars. Which completely debunks the theory
that recycling keeps waste out of landfills. To make matters worse, humans make mistakes which

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means that sometimes, you can end up with some of the 5 unrecyclable plastics in your recycled
bottles and packaging. Sometimes, you can end up with chemicals in these plastics like bisphenol
A, or BPA which can lead to a rise in blood pressure. Now recycling even has a risk to your
health. Aside from the present issue that the paper and plastic recycling industries confess to,
recycling aluminum might actual be the only thing worth it. Recycling aluminum is done by
simply re-melting the metal down to a more malleable form. Along with actual creating useful
things, it takes only 5% of the original energy to that is used to make new aluminum.
Some of the most prominent reasons that people recycle is in order to get their money
back, feel good about themselves and to save the environment from landfills. Landfills have an
extremely negative connotation. When you hear the word all you envision is pile upon pile of
waste products adorned my circling birds overhead, but in fact, most Americans are poorly
informed about what landfills really do and look like. Everyone is worried about the smell of
landfills, how ugly they look and what they will do to air quality. Once landfills are lined
properly to protect the runoff of chemicals, they are filled with trash and covered. The covered
land is open to becoming beautiful parks, golf courses or even shopping malls. According to
Lynn Scarlett, a recognized US environmental policy executive and analyst says one landfill only
44 miles on each side, could hold Americas trash for the next thousand years. 44 miles on each
side is less than one percent of the United States land.
I believe that if as a people, we were more informed about recycling, we wouldnt be
swayed into doing it. All were doing is creating more problems for our environment and
providing the head of recycling corporations with more money for their bank accounts.
Recycling is a billion dollar industry, just like oil, yet only one of these falls under the category
and thats due to nothing but lack of information. We arent helping our country, lowering

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pollution, or even watching our own health when we recycle. More Americans should look into
things before deciding that they are applicable to our wants. After all, is wasting 20 more dollars
to fund a ton of recycling for 180 dollars instead of a ton of trash for 150 for most of it to end up
in the same landfill really worth sending sulfur and nitric acid into your childs air?

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Work Cited
Handley, Andrew. "10 Ways Recycling Hurts the Environment - Listverse." Listverse. N.p., 27
Jan. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.
Mooney, Carla. Recycling. N.p.: Norwood House, 2014. Print.
Stewart, Bonnie, Lisa Stiffler, and Robert Mcclure. "Recycling Plant Among Top Northwest
Polluters EarthFix Oregon Public Broadcasting." Recycling Plant Among Top Northwest
Polluters EarthFix Oregon Public Broadcasting. InvestigateWest, 7 Nov. 2011. Web. 7 Dec.
O'Connor, Anahad. "BPA in Cans and Plastic Bottles Linked to Quick Rise in Blood
Pressure." Well BPA in Cans and Plastic Bottles Linked to Quick Rise in Blood Pressure
Comments. N.p., 08 Dec. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Bast, Joseph, Peter Hill, and Richard Rue. "Environmental Myths, Part II." Environmental
Myths, Part II. Eco-Sanity, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
A. Clark Wiseman, U.S. Wastepaper Recycling Policies: Issues and Effects; Lynn Scarlett, A
Consumer's Guide to Environmental Myths and Realities
"Closing America's Largest Landfill, Without Taking Out The Trash." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 10
Dec. 2014.