The Challenges Facing Recycling

By AIDA CEPEDA • age 10

Plastic bottle on the beach
Plastic bottle on the beach

Have you wondered where your recycling actually goes? Globally, the United States has been sending its recycling to other countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Ghana, which cannot handle its load. As a result, recycling ends up in landfills, the ocean and even in the air and rain. Unfortunately, it could even enter your bloodstream. China had been handling nearly half of the world’s materials since the 1990s but placed major restrictions on the import of most waste materials in 2017 through its National Sword policy. 

The process of recycling includes recycling being picked up by a garbage truck and then sent to a facility, where it is sorted to be processed and cleaned to be turned into newspapers, asphalt, plastic detergent bottles and carpeting.

Wishcycling is a process where people hope their recycling gets recycled and does not end up misplaced. For instance, when you put a dirty container in a recycling bin hoping it will be recycled, you can end up contaminating large amounts of recycling, rendering the load ineligible to be recycled. 

Unfortunately, only 70% of plastic gets recycled. An Environment Protection Agency report found that there were 292 million tons of municipal waste in 2018. The United States does not have a federal recycling program, and it is now up to the 20,000 individual communities to address their local recycling and reuse issues. 

Here are some things you can do on Earth Day and every day to reduce waste: try to shop smarter and avoid plastic at all cost, recycle right by not putting your trash in the recycling, and hold corporations/governments accountable for waste ending up in landfills. 

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