Today, we generate a lot of garbage via our everyday lives. Not only is this damaging to the planet, but it can also be damaging to our bodies, which is a lesser-known fact than the former. Despite this, it wasn’t too long ago that piles and piles of paper were just thrown in the bin, rather than being placed in the recycling. This typical behavior has since shifted, as we became aware that we needed to save energy and reduce the number of materials being sent to landfill. From this, many more recyclable products have been created, such as recycled pallets, recycled water bottles, recycled clothing, and more. Not only does recycling help us protect the environment and conserve resources, but it has a direct impact on our health, as well as the planet.
How Does Garbage Affect Our Health?
In the US, every individual produces upwards of 1,780 pounds of garbage on a yearly basis. This figure is higher than that of any other country. Not only does this take up space in landfill, but it releases greenhouse gasses and harmful chemicals into the air. For instance, decomposing trash produces methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. Each of these gasses contributes to air pollution, which plays a role in multiple respiratory illnesses.
Additionally, birth defects and low birth weights have been reported near landfills, as have various cancers, such as kidney, liver, larynx, and pancreas cancers. Meanwhile, adverse symptoms, such as headaches, sleepiness, and fatigue are also common in these regions.
What’s more, poorly managed sites attract germ-carrying vermin, including rats. These rats can inflict rat bite fever, salmonella, and hantavirus on people. Similarly, houseflies will travel from landfill sites to households, carrying tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.
It’s not just landfills – if trash doesn’t make its way to the landfill site, it ends up being burned. The pollution from these incinerators is linked to various health complications, including miscarriages, premature births, urinary tract infections, soft tissue tumors, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The Effect of Recycling on Health
Since recycling reduces the need for landfill, it also minimizes the health risks linked to incinerators and landfill sites. Despite this, there are other benefits to recycling, such as the conservation of energy from using recycled products. This conservation of energy comes from the reduced need for processing, refining, and extracting. From this energy efficiency comes a conservation of natural resources, a reduction in climate change, and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone knows that this is much better for the planet; however, it’s not as widely known that this is beneficial to our health.
Just to measure how much better recycling is for the planet than landfill, recycled aluminium saves 95% on production energy, recycled plastics save 70%, and recycled steel saves 60%. In fact, the US could save between 30 and 170 million tons of carbon each year by recycling more plastics. This equates to taking between six and 30 million vehicles off the road. What’s more, the recycling of 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for more than a whole day.
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Are We Recycling Correctly?
While we’re much better at recycling than we once were, we still have a long way to go. In fact, on an annual basis, we throw out 22 million tons of recyclable products in the US alone. The most common recyclable items include:
- Plastic bags
- Food boxes
If you’re unsure about what can be recycled in your local area, it’s important to contact your local government. Incorrectly recycling something can contaminate an entire process.
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