Future of Recycling

December 14, 2007 • Volume 17, Issue 44
Is a zero-waste society achievable?
By Jennifer Weeks

Introduction

Four million old cell phones are recycled yearly at ReCellular, in Dexter, Mich. Used TVs, computers, cell phones and other
Four million old cell phones are recycled yearly at ReCellular, in Dexter, Mich. Used TVs, computers, cell phones and other "e-waste" contain many toxic materials and are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. municipal solid-waste stream. (Getty Images/Andrew Sacks)

Three-quarters of all Americans recycle at home, making recycling one of the nation's most popular environmental activities. Skeptics argue that recycling does little to help the environment and often costs more than burying waste in landfills, but rising energy prices and concerns about climate change are strengthening the supporters' case. Making new goods from scrap metal, glass or paper uses less energy and generates fewer greenhouse gases than extracting and processing virgin materials. Today the U.S. recycles more than 30 percent of its municipal solid waste, and advocates say that figure could be much higher. Diverting more waste from landfills, however, will involve finding ways to handle new materials such as food scraps. Meanwhile, a growing stream of junked computers, televisions and other electronic trash — much of it containing toxic materials — is forcing manufacturers to take responsibility for disposing of their products.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Environmental Protection
Dec. 02, 2016  Arctic Development
Apr. 22, 2016  Managing Western Lands
Jul. 18, 2014  Regulating Toxic Chemicals
Sep. 20, 2013  Future of the Arctic
Jun. 14, 2013  Climate Change
Nov. 06, 2012  Vanishing Biodiversity
Nov. 02, 2012  Managing Wildfires
Nov. 04, 2011  Managing Public Lands
Aug. 26, 2011  Gulf Coast Restoration
Jul. 2010  Plastic Pollution
Feb. 2010  Climate Change
Jan. 09, 2009  Confronting Warming
Dec. 05, 2008  Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Nov. 2008  Carbon Trading
Oct. 03, 2008  Protecting Wetlands
Feb. 29, 2008  Buying Green
Dec. 14, 2007  Future of Recycling
Nov. 30, 2007  Disappearing Species
Feb. 2007  Curbing Climate Change
Dec. 01, 2006  The New Environmentalism
Jan. 27, 2006  Climate Change
Oct. 25, 2002  Bush and the Environment
Oct. 05, 2001  Invasive Species
Nov. 05, 1999  Saving Open Spaces
Jun. 11, 1999  Saving the Rain Forests
May 21, 1999  Setting Environmental Priorities
Mar. 19, 1999  Partisan Politics
Oct. 16, 1998  National Forests
Jun. 19, 1998  Environmental Justice
Aug. 23, 1996  Cleaning Up Hazardous Wastes
Mar. 31, 1995  Environmental Movement at 25
Jun. 19, 1992  Lead Poisoning
May 15, 1992  Jobs Vs. Environment
Jan. 17, 1992  Oil Spills
Sep. 20, 1991  Saving the Forests
Apr. 26, 1991  Electromagnetic Fields: Are They Dangerous?
Sep. 08, 1989  Free Market Environmental Protection
Dec. 09, 1988  Setting Environmental Priorities
Jul. 29, 1988  Living with Hazardous Wastes
Dec. 20, 1985  Requiem for Rain Forests?
Aug. 17, 1984  Protecting the Wilderness
Jun. 15, 1984  Troubled Ocean Fisheries
Aug. 19, 1983  America's Disappearing Wetlands
Feb. 22, 1980  Noise Control
Nov. 16, 1979  Closing the Environmental Decade
Oct. 13, 1978  Toxic Substance Control
Feb. 27, 1976  Pollution Control: Costs and Benefits
Nov. 28, 1975  Forest Policy
May 30, 1975  Wilderness Preservation
Dec. 20, 1974  Environmental Policy
Nov. 14, 1973  Strip Mining
Dec. 01, 1971  Global Pollution
Jul. 21, 1971  Protection of the Countryside
Jan. 06, 1971  Pollution Technology
Jun. 19, 1968  Protection of the Environment
Oct. 30, 1963  Noise Suppression
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Recycling and Solid Waste