Establishing a Recycling Culture

Recycle FIN

Robert Dancer

It can be really tough to feel any conviction when it comes to situations that do not have a direct effect on someone. The earth as a whole is punished because since we all don’t feel exactly responsible for the amount of waste that is polluting our environment. I grew up in different households with polarizing views of recycling. When I was younger I was always tasked to take the trash every Wednesday right before I went to school. It didn’t matter if whether there were cans, bottles, or whatever else that could be considered recyclable. It didn’t really take anything out of my morning routine, though I was lazy and it took multiple alarms to wake me up in the morning. Later in life when moved in with my stepmother, it was pertinent to ensure we have a separate bin for certain items. As weeks go by I realize, nothing really hinders my morning routine so recycling is just as easy as taking out real trash. It makes me wonder why some people do not feel that it is not necessary to recycle. It is scary to read articles and watch the news about how pollution is taking over the earth and it’s oceans, but people are turning a blind eye. As a first world country, the United States should be at the top of recycling rates across the world. Unfortunately we are not. Before we get to a point where we have too much waste to handle, the United States needs to adopt a mandatory zero-waste, recycling policy that is on a national level, because currently, there is none.

There is no doubt that as a first-world country, the U.S. has progressed in production a myriad of materials. In turn these materials that were produced and sold throughout the nation, for example in 2013, resulted in 254 million tons of waste. Only about 34 percent of this amount of waste was recycled (EPA 5). The United States, being one of the biggest super powers in the world, contributes to this number greatly, however could definitely improve on its current recycling rates. Right now the U.S. falls behind many other countries that recycle up to 50 or even more than 60 percent of their waste. If the United States mandated a zero-waste policy in all states, the 34 percent range can easily reach up to 40 or 50 percent in only a couple years.

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, zero waste is “a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use…” (par. 2). Literally having zero waste is a bit impossible. California however, has done a phenomenal job in keeping recycling high due to practicing a zero-waste policy. With this, California has reduced their waste to more than 50 percent (par. 1). These types of policies can take on many forms. A few other states have similar policies that include different ways to reduce waste, but the main purpose, as said before is to establish a lifestyle of a recycling mentality.

On the contrary, there are many other states that have not adopted such a policy and are definitely lacking compared to states that have one. Nebraska for example is one of the many states that do not have an effective policy. Because of this, Nebraska holds recycle rate of 17 percent, which is well below the national average (Cordes 35). Currently there is not much that is being done for this matter despite previous proposals for Nebraska’s current recycling program. If the states that are behind the national average, like Nebraska follows in the footsteps of states like California, the United States would quickly increase the national average of it waste. For the time being, the U.S. also has the issue of where the current amount waste has already ended up.

Put into perspective of 100 years. If we are at the current rate we are now, there will be so much waste that is left on our earth, our children’s children will have to deal with the government’s realization of the lack of recycling in the past. This can lead to the government intruding into our lives to fix the problem of pollution. Waste will be hazardous from sitting for years in the ocean and landfills making it unsafe. One of our main purposes in life is to create future generations. What’s the point of creating families if you are setting them up for failure? This is why we need to do something now.

Works Cited

California 50% Solid Waste Reduction Achieved! .” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, Accessed 14 Mar. 2017.

Cordes, Henry J. “Nebraska Recycling Falls Short of National Average.” Kearney Hub, World Herald News Service, 13 July 2015, Accessed 14 Mar. 2017.

“Municipal Solid Waste.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 2016, Accessed 13 Mar. 2017.

“ZW Definition.” Zero Waste International Alliance, Accessed 13 Mar. 2017.


4 thoughts on “Establishing a Recycling Culture

  1. How big are the countries we are behind in recycling? It may be easier for smaller countries to adopt mandatory waste policies. You should talk about the garbage island in the middle of the Atlantic. -Max

  2. Yes, the United States should minimize waste. Even after a long winter, there is a crazy amount of trash littered on the ground. This would help the future generation.

  3. Robert, thankfully you found some success with a visual! Like Jacob P said, it was a long road! I like that you included Nebraska in your post. It would have been cool to see some of the logistics about implementing such a policy.

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