By Taryn Hurley Hall
The world is full of waste. I know this, you know this, and so does most of the world. We also know that the biggest solution to this is recycling. Yet we still have a problem with how much material is not recycled every year. We must do better.
There are still countries that do not have official recycling programs. Some countries have chosen to do nothing about it. Others are not able to, for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reason for this is that the country is too small to house recycling facilities. This is true, for example, for Andorra, Bermuda, and Monaco. They have to ship their recyclable materials abroad.
In my home in Barbados, we are not required by the government to recycle. Some people still do, but you have to go out of your way to find someone who will collect your rubbish. These informal groups are quickly running out of money to send their materials abroad like the government does, and they have no rules that they enforce.
Another solution is to collect all of your recyclable waste and drive up to the landfill, which is in the middle of the countryside (and therefore takes a while to get to). There, the government has some small skips you can dispose of rubbish in, and you must sort it into different categories (for example: paper, plastic, metal) yourself. Again, this takes time and money for the everyday person. For these reasons, most people do not bother. It is simply too much effort.
The rest of the waste that is not sent to private groups is just thrown in the landfill, which is quickly getting bigger. Luckily, it is not disposed of in the sea, which creates a whole other environmental issue.
Many countries just do not have enough money to move forward with recycling. Others still need to work on waste going to landfills properly before they can start on the task of recycling. Most of these countries are working on solutions as we speak. Informal recycling programs run in them as well. However, it is still shameful that after years of hearing about how the amount of waste the world is producing, more governments, like mine, have not conquered this issue sooner.
It is not only countries without official recycling programs that are contributing to the issue, but individual people too.
“It’s just one straw,” people say.
“I don’t need to recycle; it isn’t my fault the world has a problem.”
“Why should I do it? It’s not like it will change anything.”
I have heard these phrases a million times, and I am sure you have too. In a survey conducted recently in the United Kingdom, 43% of 18-34 year olds claim that helping the environment is not worth doing unless others do the same (Gould, 2020). So many people are lazy and feel like a single person will not change anything. This fact on its own may be true, but when hundreds of thousands of people believe they are the “single person who will not affect anything,” we have a huge problem. So many people are blind to the effects that their behaviours can have on the Earth.
On top of these people who believe they are somehow separate from the rest of the planet, we also have those who are simply lazy. Unfortunately, there are too many of these. It is horrifying to think that even after extensive research has been done to prove how much this planet needs recycling, so many people do not care. For the most part, these people have simply not been educated enough. Non-decomposable items like plastic are not going away, and someone needs to drill this into the heads of ignorant people.
If we do not recycle, then our waste heads to landfills, which already house the majority of the world’s rubbish, and which are one of the largest producers of methane gas in the world. The alternative to landfills is incineration. If we do not increase the amount of recycling done worldwide, we will fill our landfills. Once they are full, larger-scale burning could lead to deadly air pollution. Without recycling, our world will crumble. Climate change has already affected this planet and shows no signs of stopping. We should not be contributing to this problem by refusing to undertake a simple task.
Thankfully, all throughout the world we are learning to improve. Most developing countries have informal recycling programs in place even if their government has not enforced it. Most people seem to be aware of how important recycling truly is.
We can no longer sit at home and pretend that recycling is unnecessary. If you are not required by your government to recycle, go out and join a group or start one of your own. Make a club at school, or in your community. Our Earth does not have time for us to wait around.
Taryn Hurley Hall is a college student.