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Recycling Should Be Mandatory in The United States

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U.S. citizens are dying with their planet with every breath they take. It is no secret that America has a pollution problem, but what is not widely known is that there is only a recycling rate of 35% while other countries, like Germany, have a recycling success of 68%. That is not the scariest fact, only about 9% of the nearly 35 million tons of plastic produced every year is recycled, according to the United Kingdom’s Royal Statistical Society. Plastic is a form of pollution that contributes to climate change, climate change affects the planet we live on massively. What should be done is, the United States need to make mandatory recycling to prevent climate change. The U.S. should enforce mandatory recycling to reduce gas emissions, reduce the trash there is in landfills, and clean polluted bodies of water to reduce climate change.

To understand the seriousness of why mandatory recycling should be enforced, U.S. citizens need to understand what gas emissions are. According to one of NASA’s top editors, Holly Shaftel, “Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates”. Greenhouse gas emissions are gasses (primarily carbon dioxide) which are caused by human activities such as factories, transportation, and regular commercial products. Though what U.S. citizens do not realize, is that the gas emissions that are effecting climate change are also effecting them. Greenhouse gas emissions trap heat, which makes the climate warmer for people who live in hotter areas of the U.S., which also contributes to respiratory disease from air pollution. In a study written by Allen Hershkowitz, he wrote, “In 1994 alone the 1,834 plastics production facilities operating in the United States emitted more than 111 million pounds of toxic air emissions, 507 million pounds of production related wastes, tens of thousands of pounds of discharges to surface waters, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of other pollutants releases”. Paper mills (factories devoted to making paper from trees) are a major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Factories chop trees down for paper usage, which go unrecycled and reduce the number of trees there is in the environment. Not using virgin materials, such as trees, will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. By recycling paper and letting trees flourish in the environment the amount of carbon dioxide would be removed from the air, which would also help carbon be stored into the soil, and release oxygen into the atmosphere. Another concept people do not realize, is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that if the U.S. was to increase its current recycling rate from 27% to 35%, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11.4 million tons of carbon dioxide. That might not seem like a huge amount considering the earth’s atmosphere is currently clouded with a whopping 412 million tons of carbon dioxide, but it sure is a staggering difference and a step into right the direction.

Landfills are also a major contribution to the climate change epidemic. The EPA describes landfills on their website as, “Modern landfills are well-engineered and managed facilities for the disposal of solid waste”, and states that the United States has more than 3,000 active landfills. Landfills produce fewer gas emissions but still hold the same accountability to the climate change epidemic, which is why many organizations are trying to find different ways to dispose of their trash. In a viewpoint essay written by author, William J. Cohen, he states, “In 1991 the four municipal councils in the region, including Lunenburg County and the towns of Bridgewater, Lunenburg, and Mahone Bay, approved a regional recycling strategy that would offer an alternative to the county’s system of burning and landfilling, a system on a collision course with Nova Scotia’s clean air goals. Those clean air goals were to be met by 1996, and the province’s waste reduction goals were to be met by 2000”. Cohen then proceeds to state how Nova Scotia had established a province-wide mandatory recycling program, in which the process reached one of their main goals of reducing their waste volume from landfills to at least 50%. Cohen then explains how their goal was met saying, “Lunenburg County’s strategy was fairly direct: It would include the operation of a separation plant for recyclables, a composting plant for both source-separated organic garbage and mixed waste, and a dry landfill for the residue. Hazardous wastes and large discarded items, such as appliances, also would be recycled”. Considering there are plenty of landfills in many counties in the United States, just like greenhouse gas emissions, landfills are also very dangerous to U.S. citizens. A lawsuit filed by the Holt family, who resided in Tennessee, towards the Dickinson County Landfill back in 2004. The family eventually won their case because of an unfortunate spill from the landfill. The landfill business lost most of the limited credibility they had left. Mandatory recycling would help reduce the landfills, raise awareness to the climate change problem, and make a change on the problem. Citizens would not have to rely on a third-party business to potentially harm people around them and it would be free to recycle their products and or compost them. Many countries have proven that the changes within their regions have had benefitted with reducing their landfills and the impact it has had on the climate change surrounding them.

Water pollution is the third biggest contributor to the climate change epidemic with 80% of the worlds wastewater being dumped back into the environment untreated(Denchak). With climate change on the rise so has the water levels. Pollution pays a big factor in the climates water cycles, which has made the cycles unstable, unpredictive, and way more hazardous than it has in the past 30 years. Water nowadays has become so fatal that the amount of fresh drinking water that is available in the earth has subsided to less than one percent. The water has become toxic to humans due to the strong amounts of arsenic, copper, and lead. All three of those toxic components have been found in tap water in every single state in the nation. Not only are there chemicals being dumped into the bodies of water, there’s trash being dumped too. Water pollution has become a big component of human deaths, causing more than one billion people to become sick each year due to the unsafe water they consume. In these hazardous waters there is waterborne pathogens, which is a disease-causing bacteria and viruses from human and animal waste(Denchak). Waterborne pathogens are one of the biggest factors of human deaths from water pollution due to the contaminated drinking water. Not only is drinking polluted water dangerous, swimming in these polluted bodies of water can cause even more harm to humans. In an article from NRDC it states, “Even swimming can pose a risk. Every year, 3.5 million Americans contract health issues such as skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, and hepatitis from sewage-laden coastal waters, according to EPA estimates”.

With the United States enforcing mandatory recycling, gas emissions would be reduced, the trash on landfills will reduce, and our bodies of water would no longer be polluted. Undoubtedly, US citizens will not see instant changes in the environment with one recycled plastic bottle, but it can change the future for their grandchildren, so they can live better healthier lives. One recycled plastic bottle can make a huge difference in the future and with the governments help and funding, the landfills will slowly start to be a thing of the past.


  •, “Germany is the world’s leading nation for recycling – Climate Action”2020. Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.
  • Cohen, William J. ‘Mandatory Recycling Programs Work.’ Garbage and Recycling, edited by Helen Cothran, Greenhaven Press, 2003. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Accessed 23 Jan. 2020.
  • Denchak, Melissa. “Water Pollution: Everything You Need to Know”. NRCD, 24, May 2018. Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.
  • Dufour, Fred. “A Whopping 91% of Plastic Isn’t Recycled.” National Geographic, 20 Dec. 2018, Accessed 23 Jan. 2020.
  • ‘Global Warming: The Culprit? Evidence mounts that human activity is helping fuel these monster hurricanes.’ Environmental Issues: Essential Primary Sources, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner, Gale, 2006, pp. 139-142. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Accessed 25 Jan. 2020.
  • Gray, Alex. “Germany Recycles More than Any Other Country.” World Economic Forum, Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.
  • Hershkowitz, Allen. ‘Recycled Materials Produce Less Pollution.’ Pollution, edited by James Haley,Greenhaven Press, 2003. Current Controversies. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Accessed 24 Jan. 2020. Originally published as ‘In Defense of Recycling,’ Social Research, Spring 1998.
  • ‘Solid waste landfilling.’ Environmental Encyclopedia, edited by Deirdre S. Blanchfield, Gale, 2011. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
  • US EPA. “Basic Information about Landfills”, US EPA 2020. Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.

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