At a basic level that most people can relate to, recycling prevents materials that have economic value from going to waste. We tend to think of the conventional list of commodities, whose trade values are posted on the Chicago stock exchange; steel, aluminum, paper goods, plastics #1 & 2, and glass. But increasingly, other materials are becoming economically attractive to salvagers: clothing fabric, shrink-wrap, grease, and old computers, just to name a few.
Nationally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates about 30% of the waste stream gets diverted from landfill disposal (unfortunately, it's much lower in Colorado), but there is still a lot that is not getting recycled—meaning money and resources that are getting wasted. . . .
Well-run recycling programs cost less to operate than waste collection, landfilling, and incinerations. Loveland [Colorado] has discovered that the municipal garbage utility's costs to recycle are almost $40 per ton less than the cost to landfill trash, while Denver's recycling programs saved about $200,000 in landfill costs in 2004 and brought in nearly $1 million from the sale of recyclables. Unlike many public services, recycling does function within the market economy, and quite successfully.
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