What difference does it make if that aluminum beverage can goes into the trash rather than the recycling bin? Same with that steel soup can, coat hanger, plastic water bottle, or Sunday newspaper? It turns out that recycling (or lack of recycling) has significant implications for a number of society’s top-of-the-list environmental and social concerns: energy consumption and future supply, climate change, land use change, environmental degradation, water quality, and future raw materials availability.
In this report we examine the environmental benefits of recycling and impacts of not doing so. We examine recovery of recyclables from municipal solid waste (MSW) from both environmental and economic perspectives, shed light on arguments against recycling, and consider proposals for change to current recycling practices. We conclude that recycling is essential, but that changes in recycling guidelines and collection systems are needed.