Does recycling help global warming?

Global warming is a big topic and discussion nowadays and people really want to know what can be done to improve it. Most of us don’t recognize it, but one action to defeat global warming is recycling.

How exactly does recycling help fight global warming?

  • Recycling saves energy. Pulp and paper is the fifth biggest industrial power consumer in the world. The production of recycled paper utilizes 65 percent less energy compared to producing paper from virgin pulp. When energy consumption is reduced, a dramatic drop in greenhouse gas emissions happens simultaneously.
  • Recycling preserves trees. If you want to save 17 trees from getting cut down, you can recycle one ton of paper. Each tree is a big help as it reduces global warming. Meaning, by capturing and holding carbon dioxide. 
  • Recycling saves water. Wastewater treatment produces greenhouse gases including methane and nitrous oxide. On the other hand, producing recycled paper uses 80 percent less water than paper production using raw materials, which eventually reduces methane and nitrous oxide, hence greenhouse gas emissions!

When we think of all of the stuff that we can do to assist decrease global warming, it all sounds overwhelming. The solution to never pause your commitment is to keep telling yourself that recycling your paper goods is an essential action. All the same, don’t ignore your cans and bottles. Recycling all kinds of containers saves energy and natural resources which also helps decrease carbon emissions that add to global warming.

Rethink recycling – you can recycle more types of paper than you think. To learn more, contact your community recycling program.

  Why do people not recycle?
Recycling bins

The problem with recycling

A downturn in international recycling runs has been observed for quite a while now. In the past several years, recycling programs have gone to a single stream, which means throwing every recyclable in one container. 

At the same time, we’ve seen a large increase in contamination. China used to accept recyclables of any quality for a long time. However, it recently released a policy putting strict contamination limits on incoming recyclables. This has created a huge disturbance in the U.S. recycling practice, changing some countries and states more seriously than others.

Why should we fix recycling systems?

We would reap significant climate benefits if we can hold trash away from landfills and incinerators. Landfills truly make up the third-largest source of methane emissions in the United States of America. 

A huge part of these emissions happens from food waste, which totally proves that growing compost access is quintessential while we develop recycling. Waste incineration also referred to as “waste to energy”, releases unhealthy air pollutants and discharges millions of tons of CO2.

However, recycling is more than simply an alternative to landfills. There do exist countless proven gains to using recycled materials over raw ones. Moreover, it is extremely possible to just use recycled content when producing new products. 

Energy makes up the biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the USA, and throughout the world. It’s important that we reduce the use of fossil fuels, move to renewable energy ways of doing it, and maximize energy performance. 

Using recycled materials takes less power to prepare them again as they have previously been processed. For instance, transforming trees into pulp required to create paper products needs energy and other sources like H2O, while adapting old paper into pulp for different products cut down on the sources needed. 

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Even better, materials like glass and aluminum are recyclable indefinitely without diminishing their quality. An estimated 75% of total aluminum created is said to be made from recycled supplies.

Using recycled materials has clear climate benefits. Therefore, recycling is an essential part of the circular marketplace. It is also true that recycling lists 55th in Project Downtown’s ways to cut emissions that are creating climate pressure, with the potential to remove 2.77 gigatons of greenhouse gasses.

Common questions about recycling helping global warming

Does recycling help the climate?

Yes, recycling helps the climate. However, it helps the most when the system actually works. It’s no doubt that recycling is currently one of the challenges nationwide but don’t worry, there are tons of solutions. Recycling will have a bigger impact on the climate crisis if we can scale them up. 

What can individuals do to help climate change?

As individuals, we can help by reducing energy consumption at home. This means being more choosing energy-efficient home appliances and using insulation. Improving heating and cooling appliances is also helpful.

How can we save our planet?

There are a lot of things we can do to save our planet. Recycling, reusing, and reducing trash is still one of the best ones to do. This allows us to lessen landfill wastes, cut down on energy consumption, and even reduce overall pollution.

Recycling is a daily practice for many of us, but it can be hard to know if it’s really helping the planet as we’d hope. As we throw recyclables into our curbside bins it can feel like an individual action that doesn’t yield much of an impact.

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But what we do as individuals feed into a larger system of many processes, industries, and impacts. Truth is, in addressing the climate crisis, there is no “silver bullet. If you want to manage materials more sustainably, then consider recycling.


We have to rethink how we are doing it all. It is important to consider our footprint! Susan has been writing on this blog since 2020, but it has been on her mind for a lot longer!

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