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Pollution & Recycling Facts

By Victoria Weinblatt ; Updated June 13, 2017

Products you use every day come from materials recovered by recycling, including beverage containers, computer paper and appliances. The purchase of these goods creates a market for recycled products and reduces environmental pollutants. Pollution not only affects the environment, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy Office national science lab, it causes increased health care costs, loss of productivity at work and human welfare impact.

Recycling Benefits

Recycling aluminum, paper, steel, glass and plastic helps the economy and the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Manufacturing products from recycled materials consumes less energy and produces less pollution than producing the same items from virgin materials. Reducing our use of virgin materials conserves natural resources like trees, water and minerals.

Health Effects

Pollution can produce both long- and short-term adverse health effects, including bronchitis, headaches, heart disease and cancer. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory cautions that children, the elderly and people who suffer from health conditions like asthma have a greater sensitivity to pollutants. The extent of harm from pollution depends on the duration of exposure and the concentration of the chemicals.

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Prevention/Solution

You can prevent pollution by making a personal commitment to reduce the impact your lifestyle has on the environment. Participating in your municipal curbside recycling program and purchasing products manufactured from recycled materials reduces the need for use of virgin materials. Carrying a reusable market bag for your purchases prevents pollution by helping reduce the use of plastic bags in the United States--about 100 billion plastic bags per year.

Aluminum

The U.S. recovers about 48 percent of its aluminum beer and soft drink containers for recycling annually, according to the EPA. Aluminum waste collected by local curbside recycling programs is hauled to a material recovery facility, where it’s baled and sold to materials brokers and aluminum sheet manufacturers. The aluminum recycling process reduces the amount of energy needed to produce aluminum by 92 percent when compared to creating the same amount of aluminum using virgin materials. Consuming less energy translates into creating less pollution.

Paper

Producing white paper from virgin pulp and chlorine-based bleaches emits pollutants into the air, water and soil. Recycling paper reduces greenhouse gas pollution, saves landfill space and conserves natural resources. According to Keep America Beautiful, approximately 75 percent of newspapers, more than 80 percent of corrugated containers and greater than 53 percent of office paper is recovered for recycling.

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