The business of recycling enhances the business of living
The approach of Earth Day on April 22 reminds us of the ways in which we can all do our part to save the planet. Recycling ordinary household items that you put out at the curb each week is one way to help. Another is getting rid of e-waste. E-recycling has come about because of modern technological advances, but did you know that recycling itself has been going on in America for more than 300 years?
A little history
Basic paper recycling can be traced to a mill near Philadelphia, PA, where the paper was made from fibers that came from recycled linen and cotton rags. That was in 1690! By 1776, General George Washington and Paul Revere were encouraging people to aid the war effort by recycling items like scrap metal and scrap paper.
Curbside recycling began in Baltimore, MD, in 1874. By 1897, workers at picking yards sorted various items for recycling. And in 1904, the country’s first aluminum recycling facilities opened in Cleveland and Chicago.
Landfills sprang up during the 1920s, and in the ‘30s. People earned extra cash during the Great Depression by peddling scraps of metal and other recycling materials. To support the war effort in the 1940s, metal, rubber, and nylon products were rationed and ultimately recycled. By 1995, there were some 4,000 curbside recycling programs up and running across the country along with more than 10,000 recycling centers.
How recycling works
You may put out your recyclables for pickup every week, but what happens then? Let’s take a look at the Waste Pro Recycling Center in Sarasota, FL. The Center collects, sorts, and sells more
than 3,000 tons of recyclable materials every month. In a large warehouse, humans work next to machines to sort the incoming materials into separate piles. Glass, plastic, metal, and paper move along a conveyor belt where workers do their part with the help of an optical sorter machine. This device scans digital images of the items on the conveyor belt. It identifies plastic bottles and knocks them off the belt and into a separate pile. Another piece of specialty equipment creates an electromagnetic field to separate aluminum products from the other items traveling along the conveyor belt. After sorting the materials, another machine compacts the piles into cubes. From there they go into storage, awaiting buyers. Aluminum sells for around $2,000 per ton while mixed paper goes for about $140 a ton.
The growing e-recycling industry
Electronic waste developed due to the technology explosion. Electronic equipment seems to become outdated in the blink of an eye, so something has to be done with items that are broken or no longer in use. Such items can be categorized under home appliances, home entertainment devices, office and medical equipment, communications devices, Information Technology devices, and electronic Utilities.
Common e-recycling benefits
The components of most electronic devices include minerals that are mined in areas across the world, adversely affecting not only the earth itself but also the plant life and the animals that live near the mines. The good news is that recycling electronic components yields more gold, copper and other useful elements than a ton of mined ore can produce.
Recycling electronics keeps them from ending up in landfills. Otherwise, metal and plastic components and certain types of toxic materials will eventually ooze through the ground and infiltrate nearby bodies of water. When you recycle e-waste, you help to protect the freshwater ecosystem, making streams and rivers safer for plants and animals.
E-recycling protects the integrity of the soil for agricultural fields. Without the presence of toxic materials, the soil can thrive and enable the growth of plants. This, in turn, provides cleaner air and healthful natural resources for human beings to enjoy.
Want to help?
You may already recycle your newspapers, glass jars, and plastic bottles—and if so, good for you. There is also a simple two-step process for reducing e-waste: Use your electronic devices as long as you can and then recycle them responsibly.
The first Earth Day in 1970 launched a movement that environmentalists took to heart, including support for climate concerns. Ultimately, recycling is all about saving the earth, and, in turn, all who inhabit this amazing planet. Both standard recycling and e-recycling sharpen our awareness of the steps we all can take to protect our environment and enhance the business of living.