When discussing how sustainable an object is, we frequently hear recycling and composting stated together. Is composting, however, preferable to recycling? What unites them and what separates them from one another? Let's explore in the article below
What Do Composting and Recycling Mean?
The "Three Rs" - Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle - are concepts that we have long associated with reducing our influence on the environment. Nevertheless, two more Rs have surfaced to support these activities: Recycle and refuse. While it may not always be possible to refuse some goods, a rising number of people are embracing the concept of "rotting" their garbage, which is where composting comes into play.
Composting is the process of turning organic waste—such as leftover food and yard waste—into a nutrient-rich substance called compost. This decomposed organic debris is a great fertilizer for gardens and a soil additive. To get rid of pathogens and concentrate nutrients, the composting process needs a certain combination of heat, oxygen, and moisture.
Composting can be done at home in a compost pile that maintains a balance between carbon-rich "brown" waste and nitrogen-rich "green" waste. As an alternative, food scraps and organic materials can decompose in a commercial composting facility under carefully monitored circumstances. Thankfully, compost collection programs and facilities for homes and businesses are becoming more and more accessible.
On the other side, recycling entails disassembling items into their constituent raw elements, including glass, metal, paper, and plastic. After being gathered, sorted, cleaned, and melted, these products are marketed as recycled raw materials. In the end, they are made into new products like newspapers, plastic bottles, metal cans, and, more recently, carpets, insulation, shoes, and clothes.
Recycling and composting are essential for cutting waste and protecting the resources of our world. Organic waste can be naturally resolved through composting, which turns it into a useful resource for improving soil and promoting plant development. Recycling, on the other hand, keeps items out of landfills and uses them to make new products, therefore conserving natural resources.
How Much Waste Is Actually Composted and Recycled?
Everything we throw out has to go somewhere eventually. Landfills, incinerators, materials recovery facilities (MRFs) for recycling, and commercial or residential composting systems are the four primary methods for disposing of garbage. We want to stay away from landfills and incinerators as much as possible because of the pollutants they emit. But what percentage of waste is genuinely recycled or composted?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that each year, 292.4 million tons of solid garbage are created. Roughly 94 million tons of this are composted or recycled. This comprises 69 million tons of recyclable materials and 25 million tons of compost. This indicates that an astounding 185 million tons of solid garbage are burned or dumped in landfills.
Recycle and composting rates have gone up in the last few decades, which is good news. Until 1990, composting was not a common method of waste processing. Furthermore, the recycling rate has grown, rising from less than 7% in 1960 to 32% at present. The EPA recognizes their importance even if there is still a need for improvement in terms of consumer accessibility and composting and recycling education, particularly clearing up any misunderstandings regarding recycling symbols.
What are advantages of Recycling and Composting
There are numerous of benefits of recycling and composting.
Benefits of Recycling
Energy conservation: Recycling lessens the need to mine, refine, and ship new raw materials, which helps save energy.
Preservation of natural resources: Recycling lessens the demand for additional resource extraction by making use of already-existing materials.
Pollution reduction: Recycling lessens the quantity of waste burned or dumped in landfills, which lessens the negative environmental effects of manufacturing.
Less reliance on fresh raw materials: Recycling lessens the requirement for fresh raw material extraction, which may have negative environmental effects.
Job creation: The recycling sector generates employment in the processing, manufacturing, sorting, and collection of recycled materials.
Benefits of Composting
Energy conservation: Composting reduces the amount of organic waste that must be transported to landfills and provides a natural fertilizer that replaces chemical fertilizers derived from fossil fuels.
Preservation of natural resources: By keeping organic waste out of landfills and turning it into nutrient-rich compost, composting helps protect natural resources.
Pollution reduction: By keeping organic waste from breaking down in landfills and releasing toxic methane gas into the atmosphere, composting helps reduce pollution.
Enhanced domestic security: Composting encourages domestic food production and food security by lowering reliance on imported fertilizers.
Job creation: The collection, processing, and distribution of compost provide employment within the composting business.
Soil enrichment: By enhancing soil structure and supplying nutrients, composting contributes to soil enrichment, which is necessary for sustainable agriculture.
Lower methane emissions: By keeping organic waste out of landfills, composting lowers methane emissions that come with the breakdown of garbage in landfills.
preserving fertile soil: By restoring nutrients and enhancing soil health, composting aids in the maintenance of arable soil and supports the food web.
How much trash can be recycled or composted?
An estimated 75% of the waste created in the United States is recyclable or compostable. This startling statistic emphasizes how much more recycling and composting needs to be done.
While both composting and recycling play important roles in decreasing waste and saving resources, their application to different forms of trash varies. Because of the restrictions of recycling, the ambiguity around recycling symbols, and the energy requirements of the recycling process, composting is typically regarded as a more environmentally beneficial choice.
Items That Can Be Landfilled, Compiled, or Recycled
Here are the list of things can be landfilled, compiled and recycled.
Items that can be recycled
According to the EPA, these are some of the most commonly recycled items:
- Glass Bottles & Jars
- Plastic Bottles & Caps
- Cardboard & Paperboard Boxes
- Newspaper & Paper Scraps
- Aluminum Cans & Tin Cans
Items that can be composted
The EPA made it easy to determine what products can be composted:
- Fruits & Vegetables
- Coffee Grounds & Filters
- Eggshells & Nutshells
- Cardboard & Paper
- Grass Clippings & Yard waste
- Hay & Straw
- Sawdust & Wood chips
- Cotton & Wool Rags
Compostable food packaging can also be sent to commercial composting facilities. In some cases, they may be home compostable.
Items that should be sent to landfill
These are some items that can't be recycled or composted and should be thrown away:
- Pet Waste
- Food-Soiled Paper Products (Greasy Pizza Boxes)
- Non-recyclable Plastics (Bags, Films, Wrappers)
- Paper or Metal items mixed with plastic
- Polystyrene (Foam Cups & Packaging)
- Textiles & Toys (if they can't be recycled)
Reconsidering Consumption: Embracing the 'Refuse' and 'Reuse' Revolution
The '5 Rs': Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot are well-established guidelines for sustainable living. Among them, "Refuse" and "Reuse" are becoming more popular in popular culture and provide good substitutes for our traditional consuming habits.
Saying "no" to buying new things has never been simpler thanks to the growth of local tool and equipment rental programs and car-sharing applications. The need for manufactured items is decreased overall because of these creative solutions that allow us to access the resources we require without having to bear the burden of ownership.
On the other side, the resale movement, fuelled by the environmentally concerned Generation Z, is gaining traction, supporting the reuse of old goods and reducing the need for new manufacture. Thrifting, which was formerly thought of as a niche hobby, has become a fashionable and environmentally friendly option that is changing the way we purchase clothing, accessories, and other everyday items.
According to data, the secondhand market will overtake the fast fashion business by 2029, with a present worth of $28 billion. Consumer views are changing, with an emphasis on economic responsibility and environmental responsibility, as seen by this expanding trend.
We may greatly lessen our environmental impact and advance a circular economy one in which resources are appreciated and used to the fullest extent possible by adopting the principles of "Refuse" and "Reuse."
Reusing products and the growth of commercial composting facilities are signs of our increasing awareness of the need to lessen our dependency on incinerators and landfills. As more individuals grasp the environmental benefits of using biodegradable materials instead of plastic and other problematic garbage, we should change our focus from arguing about the 'best' disposal method to lowering the overall quantity of waste we generate.