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This month is not about the feel good side of recycling, it is all about laying out the facts and letting them sink in. Many of us try to make a difference, but as a whole, we do not do enough. The facts are not pretty, but they are facts and need to be dealt with. Next month I will talk about the positives that can come from recycling, but for the next few weeks, I ask you to ponder what we are doing to our world.
• Each year, an estimated 500 billion single-use plastic bags are consumed worldwide, and more than 380 billion plastic bags are used each year in the United States alone. Only 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled.
• Each year, more than 500 million ink cartridges are used in the United States – only 5 percent are recycled.
• An estimated 150 million cell phones are taken out of service each year, and less than 20 percent of them are recycled.
• Of the 4,500,000,000 pounds of computers, televisions and other electronic products discarded in 2007, an estimated 82 percent went to landfills. Electronic waste, or e-waste, contains lead, mercury and other toxins that can contaminate the groundwater and soil.
• To produce each week’s Sunday newspapers, 500,000 trees must be cut down.
• The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.
• Americans throw away enough disposable plates and cups to give the world a picnic 6 times a year.
• Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour. Every hour!
• A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.
• Americans throw away enough office and writing paper annually to build a wall 12 feet high stretching from Los Angeles to New York City.
• The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world. Each person produces more than 1,600 pounds per year. This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste.
Like a pebble in a pond, one voice can ripple through the crowd – do you have that voice? Shouldn’t we all?