Recycling and Sustainability


Forbes reports that recycling metals supported over 450,000 jobs in the United States as of 2011, generating over $90 billion annually.


Recycling has a positive economic impact on the trade balance of the United States. After reclaiming the metals, recyclers ship them to other countries to use as raw materials for manufacturing of products that are then shipped back to the United States.

Recycling benefits natural-resource conservation in several ways. Recycling reduces the need to mine new materials, saving metal ores for future generations. The process also conserves energy. With copper and aluminum, the recycling process requires 10 percent or less of the energy used for refining raw ore. Each ton of recycled aluminum saves 14-megawatt hours of electricity. While the energy savings are less for steel, the process decreases consumption by almost 50 percent and reduces the use of coal and limestone required for processing ore.

In the electronics industry, reclaiming metals, including copper and precious metals, is also beneficial. The process reduces the materials sent to landfills. Devices, including small cell phones and computer mice, have metal parts that add significantly to the recycling effort.

Sustainability relates to the choices individuals and government entities make and how those choices affect the future. For example, polluting water supplies or wasting water reduces the availability of clean, uncontaminated water for future generations.

Sustainability within the soil supply is also crucial. Without properly caring for soil that produces plant life, food and natural surroundings for animals and humans, the soil loses the quality to encourage new growth for crops and natural sources of food.

Sustainability also ensures the existence of species. For example, if clean water and nonpolluted soil are scarce, the risk of species extinction increases. A lack of resources not only affects species but also the social, environmental and economic conditions of the population as a whole.

Residents and corporations can work to promote sustainability through practices that include recycling, a reduction of air and water pollution, and a shift toward green practices to preserve natural resources for future generations.