Recycling – Why is it important?

Recycling conserves natural resources and lets us skip the harmful extraction and refining process that goes into making products from virgin materials. Making stuff from the materials of other stuff uses less energy and water and stops that stuff from filling our landfills.

Recycling one…

  • Ton (2,000 lbs.) of paper saves enough energy to power a house for 6 hours.
  • Aluminum can saves enough energy to power a television for 6 hours.
  • Glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours.
  • Pound of steel saves enough energy to power a 60-watt bulb for 24 hours.
  • Cellphone can save enough energy to power a laptop computer for 44 hours.

Plus, recycling accounts for 3.1 million jobs in the U.S. and keeps valuable material in the economy. 75% of America’s waste is recyclable, but right now we only recycle around 35%. Our Country throws away $9 billion worth of materials every year. Recycling is good for the planet and the economy. 

The concept of recycling is great, but over time it has revealed a bigger issue of consumption and waste. Take a look at this video from NPR diving into the layers of the recycling industry. As the video shares, recycling is complicated. In addition to consuming less, consumers have to recycle properly, the technology to recycle each material has to existand there needs to be a market for that material. The consumer can have an impact on both ends by recycling properly and buy recycled material. Learn more about the relationship with recycling and recycling markets in our Materials Breakdown.

Specialized Recycling

There are many items that can and should be recycled that cannot go in your curbside recycling bin and need to be taken to a specialized recycling drop-off.

  • Electronics should never be put in the landfill. Though they only constitute 2% of waste by weight, they account for 70% of toxicity. In landfills these toxins leach into our environment and ground water. Find a designated E-Waste recycling drop for all electronics. Solana Center takes E-Waste, check out our E-Waste Collection Program. Or for E-Waste from businesses, check out our E-Waste pickup service.
  • Batteries and light bulbs (U-Waste) should also be recycled because of their toxicity. Not all light bulbs are toxic and accepted by recyclers, so check before making a trip. Solana Center also takes bulbs and batteries, check out our U-Waste Collection Program.
  • Oil should never be put down drains because it is bad for the sewage system and should especially never be put down storm drains as these lead directly to the ocean untreated. If you produce large amounts of cooking oil or motor oil bring to a designated oil collection.
  • Other toxic waste: All toxic waste should be disposed of properly and not sent to the landfill. Some of it can be recycled or repurposed. If you are not sure what is toxic look for words on the label such as poison, corrosive, flammable, combustible irritant, or of course toxic. See EDCO’s full list of toxic materials.
  • Textiles are important to recycle because there is so much of it. Instead of acting as padding on our landfills, these materials are important to be used to make more clothes and other textile products. Some thrift stores such as Goodwill and even some firsthand retail like H&M will take clothes even if they can’t be used anymore to be recycled.
  • Plastic bags can be recycled in special film plastic collection sites, most commonly found at grocery stores. This includes plastic grocery bags but also other types of film plastic like bread bags, newspaper bags, etc. Use this handy drop site locator to find a location near you.
  • Mattresses, tires, furniture, construction materials, and so many more items are all recyclable at the right place!

You can find where to recycle all of the above materials and more by using the following sites. Just type in the item and it will tell you where to take it!

Waste Free SD
Recycle Nation

Or check out TerraCycle, you have to order a special collection box from them to ship it in, but they will recycle almost anything!

Curbside Recycling

Because the recyclability of every object depends both on technology and the market existing and both of these thing change depending on the location and throughout time, recycling can get a little complicated. The following information can help clarify what is very recyclable and what is just maybe recyclable. For any of the “maybe” recyclables, it’s always good to check with your waste hauler.

San Diego Recycling Guides:

Below are further resources on recycling:

Just as important as putting the right thing in your blue bin, is making sure you are not putting the wrong thing in the blue bin. Check out our Dirty Dozen list for some common items that are detrimental to the recycling process.