Will One Household Choosing to Recycle Actually Make a Difference?

If you are contemplating paying for recycling service, one of the things that might be holding you back is the idea that even if you did recycle, it wouldn't make much of difference. After all, a couple fewer bags of trash next to the curb is not going to change the world, is it? Even though you might feel as though your own efforts will be like the metaphorical drop in the bucket, you might be surprised to learn that if just one person chooses to recycle, there are still numerous benefits.

You'll use fewer trees.

Whenever you reach for a piece of paper, you probably don't think of yourself as taking a part of tree. However, the average American uses 749 pounds of paper per year. Paper produced in the United States comes from different sources, included recycled sawdust and recycled paper. Because it takes around 24 trees to make a ton of paper from scratch (2000 pounds), this means that by recycling all of the paper that comes through your house, you can save up to six or seven trees each year. If you recycle for even 10 years, that's sixty trees! 

Besides choosing to recycle paper yourself, you can also reduce how much paper you use by choosing cloth bags instead of paper at the supermarket and by requesting that no "junk mail" and flyers be delivered to your mail box. Many promotional flyers and coupons just end up in the trash. If you do receive flyers, toss them in the recycling instead. The more paper that is recycled, the fewer trees that will need to be harvested to meet the consumer demand for paper. 

You'll conserve energy.

One part of recycling that many people don't think about is how much energy it takes to create plastic, paper, and glass from raw materials, instead of creating new products from old ones. By choosing to recycle your own household metals, glass, and paper, you reduce the overall amount of fossil fuels and money it would take to meet consumer demands for packaging and bottles.

To put it in perspective, consider this fact: the energy it saves to recycle a glass bottle instead of producing one from raw materials could run a fluorescent light for 20 hours. Just one bottle. If these are thrown away, all of these potential savings are wasted. If you were to recycle one glass jar per week—just you—you would conserve enough energy to provide a household with over a month of light. 

Other recycled materials that use less energy to rework include paper, as recycled paper uses less water than raw paper, and plastic, which saves more energy than is produced when plastic is burned instead of recycled. 

You'll save money.

If you choose to recycle your household waste, you will be surprised to find out that most of the things you throw away can be recycled. Soda cans can be recycled at a depot, and metal cans can be turned in at scrap metal facilities for a pay back. But once you have decided to compost peelings and food scraps, and to recycle all plastic, paper, aluminum and glass, you will not be left with much else.

If your community does not provide recycling services as part of waste management, paying for a service might be a better bet than paying for trash pick up. For the little garbage that you do produce, you could take to the landfill yourself, or pay to have it picked up once per month instead of once per week.

Becoming mindful about your recycling and the amount of products you consume can make a difference. Talk to a recycling service center in your area about how you can make a change for the better for your community.