Ever write down some notes on a piece of paper and throw it away? Have you ever thrown that paper in the recycling bin? That's about all people know about recycling. It's a question of where they put there garbage. But why are you asked to recycle things?

A Finite Amount of Materials

Recycling has to do with natural resources of the Earth. The world is a closed environment. We have "X" amount of kilograms and, with a few exceptions of sending satellites into orbit or having meteorites hit our surface, this is all we have. If you only had ten toys, you probably wouldn't be very happy if you played with them one time and then you could never play with them again. Recycling works the same way. We're taking our toys, playing with them once, and then we use parts of a few toys to make a new one.

Recycling isn't a new idea. Nature recycles all of the time. We have a whole section on different biogeochemical cycles than happen across the Earth. Nature doesn't use a carbon atom and then throw it away. Carbon atoms (and all atoms) are used and recycled. They are used by different organisms right away and sometimes left in the Earth to be used again in millions of years. Nature knows there's only so much stuff on Earth and if it doesn't find ways to recycle, there will be no life.

Reduce - Reuse - Recycle

That's the big slogan that everyone is taught. Let's break it down. The term reduce refers to the fact that the western world uses too much stuff. It's not about eating too much or having widescreen TVs. When you think reduce, think about smaller packaging. Think about better gas mileage so that you use less gasoline. Think about turning down the thermostat in the winter. Reuse is all about using things more than one time. A good example is a water bottle. The reuse idea would encourage you to go back to the market and fill up the bottle, not throw it away. And then there's recycling. This is the last step. You started by buying the package with the smallest amount of material. You reused that package to hold some out your pencils. Now that it's all over, you need to put that package in the recycling bin so that the paper can be used again in another type of material.

Efficiency Is The Key

When you apply the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle ideas, it is fantastic and every little bit helps. But it doesn't start with you. It really starts with businesses that create the materials and packaging we use. When you recycle a two-liter bottle, it's great. But when a package designer redesigns a two-liter bottle that is half an ounce lighter, that's a huge savings. Only a half ounce? That's not such a big deal. Think again young one. For one bottle it's not a big deal, but when you think that they make millions of two-liter bottles each month, that adds up to millions of ounces of plastic that never become materials that need to be recycled. You can do your part by purchasing products that encourage smaller packaging and design and manufacturing that is more efficient. Efficiency is better for the environment and for the companies' profits.

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