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Recycling in America

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Recycling in America

What Causes It

Recycling isn’t a new thing. Americans recycled during WWII (World War 2) -- not because they were trying to save the environment, but because many things like meat, coffee, sugar and tires for cars had become scarce and harder to get. Then after the war was over everything changed. Manufacturers turned from making weapon to making goods that people could buy – refrigerators, furniture, clothing, appliances, new cars, shoes, toys, televisions, radios and on and on. People had jobs and big families. They had more money and bought homes and cars. They stopped worrying about resources. They stopped recycling. More and more garbage found its way to free garage dumps found in every town. Sometimes garbage ended up in forests and wetlands or just on the sides of roads or on the street. Over time some people began to notice that things were not as clean and healthy as they had been. It was more than twenty years though, in the 1960s, that the “environmental movement” started to really make people aware of how we were hurting the environment. People became more aware of littering, saving energy, growing organic foods and recycling. Still not everyone cared about being “green.” It would be another twenty years before it started to get expensive to take garbage to the landfills. That was what really got many people recycling.

Today a lot of Americans recycle. The EPA calculates that Americans recycle about 1/3 of their waste. Though recycling has increased, people don’t have to do it and there is a lot more that people could do to conserve and reuse our shrinking resources.

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What Can You Do to Help

Ways to Recycle

  • Buy a lunch box and use it all year, instead bringing lunches every day in paper or plastic bags.
  • Ask your parents to try and only buy products that come in plastics with the #1 or #2 marked on the bottom. These are recyclables.
  • Try not to buy products sold in plastic bottles marked with a  #3, #4, #5, #6 and especially #7. You can help by going along on the next shopping trip and helping your parents look at the recycling numbers.
  • Buy milk and juice in #2 plastic jugs and recycle them. Waxed cartons can’t be recycled.
  • Bring your own canvas bags to the grocery store to pack your food in.
  • Try not to buy products with a lot of extra packaging, like plastic trays inside boxes with extra plastic wrapping.
  • Join and shop at your local food coop. You can buy food in bulk with little or no packaging at all.
  • People use a lot of ink cartridges in their computer printers. You can now recycle them through your local post office. Clear, plastic, stamped envelopes are available that you can package and send each cartridge in after it is empty. It won’t cost you a penny!
  • Old cell phones can be donated to people who need them. For how to do it, look on:
  • Even your old computers can be recycled. Donate your old computers that still work, to your local school or daycare center. If they don’t work, you can recycle them through electronics recycling companies who will even pick them up at your home.


Post Assessment Quiz

(Included in PDF)

Recycling in America - Read and React
1. How was the reason for recycling during WWII different than it is today?
2. How did manufacturing (after WWII) affect the amount of garbage in America?
3. What made people begin to think about trash (and littering) affecting out environment?
4. According to the EPA, how many Americans recycle today?
5. Name three ways you can  recycle or reduce trash in your every day life:

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Citing Research References

When you research information you must cite the reference. Citing for websites is different from citing from books, magazines and periodicals. The style of citing shown here is from the MLA Style Citations (Modern Language Association).

When citing a WEBSITE the general format is as follows.
Author Last Name, First Name(s). "Title: Subtitle of Part of Web Page, if appropriate." Title: Subtitle: Section of Page if appropriate. Sponsoring/Publishing Agency, If Given. Additional significant descriptive information. Date of Electronic Publication or other Date, such as Last Updated. Day Month Year of access < URL >.

Here is an example of citing this page:

Amsel, Sheri. "Recycling in America" Exploring Nature Educational Resource ©2005-2022. December 6, 2022
< > has more than 2,000 illustrated animals. Read about them, color them, label them, learn to draw them.