A Deceptive Reality

I remember awakening to an early and chilly Tuesday morning. As I was going downstairs to eat my breakfast, I saw my grandfather bringing two trash bags full of recyclables out to the recycling bin. The emotionless garbage truck driver collected from it and drove off. For a moment, I stopped to wonder about the futility of recycling. Was it worth going through all the effort if said recyclables would inevitably be disposed of in the same manner as for regular trash? Although it has been years since that morning, I still think about whether recycling is important or not.

In my contemplations, I thought about the emphasis society puts on recycling. Our society “could have grown eighty feet tall” to the realization of how impractical recycling is for the planet. Instead, our minds are trapped behind the influence of social media, always telling us to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The amount of recyclables are finite compared to the sheer amounts of work, costs, and environmental damage done. For all I know, everyone in my generation was taught to live by the same saying: That “it is [our] nature” to help the planet through recycling. While everyone encourages it, there is a sense of defeat that looms beneath a facade of eco-friendly consciousness. With our population increasing day by day, we fail to understand just how useless recycling will become in our future.

“School Waste Reduction Laws” -CA.gov

All of the debris on the planet will remain there forever, and a majority of recyclables will simply become trash. A vast majority of consumables we use today aren’t biodegradable in any way, and some are just hazardous in general. Also, the process of recycling creates toxic waste that damages the planet. When hazardous waste gets recycled either accidentally or purposefully, it poses a threat towards human and environmental health through contamination. The people in “Scavengers” use some materials on the planet, but there are still a lot of items on the planet that won’t be used. This is an example of how recycling, although it can be somewhat useful, isn’t efficient in the long run. There is also a scene where the two people find a mysterious substance that killed a living creature along their journey.

“Scavengers” (5:09-5:30) -Joseph Bennett, Charles Huettner

There are instances where recycled materials are used for projects that don’t necessarily have practical values. They could be used to create something new or inspiring, like how Blair Somerville in “Lost & Found” creates rusted contraptions from his collection of parts and scraps found left out or along the shoreline. None of his works of art prove to be beneficial to our society, nor do they affect our health or environment. While Somerville finds fulfillment in his work, his art pieces will still eventually either be reused to a breaking point or be destroyed in a toxic way that hurts the environment. In the end, the recyclables used would end up with the same fate as new materials.

Blair Somerville tinkering in “Lost & Found” -Joey Bania

I’m not trying to argue that we should stop recycling as a whole, because then humans would eventually perish from overflows of trash. While recycling can contribute to the betterment of our planet and society, the damage that is done over time outweighs the benefits overall. The manufacturing of machines used for recycling is costly, and it takes a lot of resources in order to process said recyclables. Landfills are being filled up faster than it takes for us to recycle, and the carbon footprint left behind from the removal of hazardous material is too large to be left unnoticed. I undoubtedly respect all of the organizations and individuals that advocate for a better planet through recycling, but perhaps there is no real solution.

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