Reducing Wastes

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Although recycling helps to keep some wastes out of landfills, recycling advocates say reducing the amount of waste created in the first place is even more effective. Individuals can have a direct effect on the waste stream by decreasing their consumption and taking several common sense steps. Since product packaging makes up most of the wastes generated in America, one of the best steps consumers can take is to avoid purchasing products that come with a lot of packaging. When shopping for groceries, for example, consumers can concentrate on buying bulk items and fresh fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods that often are heavily packaged. And when comparing products, consumers should consider whether the packaging can be recycled after the purchase and whether higher-quality products might last longer than cheaper items. Another good idea is to avoid both plastic and paper bags when shopping by substituting reusable shopping bags. Taking your own refillable beverage container to work, to the gym, or to coffee shops is a similar way to cut down on plastic water bottle and disposable cup wastes. All of these actions can add up to decrease wastes.

caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials. Using recycled materials also saves energy, advocates argue, because it takes less energy to use recyclables than to make a product from raw materials. As the National Recycling Coalition explains: "It takes 95% less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to make it from raw materials. Making recycled steel saves 60%, recycled newspaper 40%, recycled plastics 70%, and recycled glass 40%."17 In addition, recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, because fewer goods are manufactured, fewer materials are producing methane in landfills, and fewer carbon-absorbing trees are cut down. In general, according to the EPA and many other sources, recycling reduces the stress on the environment, preserves natural resources, and helps sustain the environment for future generations.

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