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Does recycling work?
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Despite widespread recycling, landfills are still used to store waste

Landfills are areas that hold waste and items that can’t be recycled. They are everywhere! In 1960, Americans generated 2.68 pounds of garbage per day; by 2017, it had grown to an average of 4.51 pounds. And while many Americans dutifully put items into their recycling bins, much of it does not actually end up being recycled.

The Argument

Recycling clearly isn’t very effective because there are still landfills. Landfills exist for materials that can’t be recycled, which includes plastic, styrofoam, and even shredded paper.[1] These materials usually end up being incinerated, deposited in landfills, or washed into the ocean. While incineration is sometimes used to produce energy, waste-to-energy plants have been associated with toxic emissions in the past. Landfills emit carbon dioxide, methane, volatile organic compounds, and other hazardous pollutants into the air. And our oceans are drowning in plastic waste. In fact, on average, about 25 percent of the stuff we try to recycle is too contaminated to go anywhere but the landfill, according to the National Waste and Recycling Association, a trade group. Just a decade ago, the contamination rate was closer to 7 percent, according to the association. The contamination of landfills is increasing quickly. Recycling isn’t doing any real work because there are still landfills,

Counter arguments

Just because some materials take a while to degrade or must be reused in different ways, doesn’t mean recycling is worthless. People should still recycle. The most important benefit of recycling is that we recover the raw materials used to make the stuff we use. It takes a lot of energy and water to extract and refine virgin materials from the earth. The process can also cause land degredation and even social upheaval in the local communities it affects. Recycling these raw materials can help us prevent this from occuring. Recycling also helps us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. When products are dumped in landfill, the energy used to make them is lost. Recycling them can help us recover some of this energy. Recycling organic waste also helps us reduce our impact on our climate by reducing the amount of methane gas released into the atmosphere. Despite the continued existence of landfills, people should still recycle. It takes a long time to implement change. If people continue to recycle and develop new innovations in recycling, eventually landfills will become a thing of the past.



[P1] There are still landfills and items that can't be recycled. [P2] Recycling clearly does not work.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Although some items can’t be recycled, others can. Therefore, people should recycle at least those items.


This page was last edited on Sunday, 26 Jul 2020 at 14:26 UTC

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