The most obvious reasons for recycling are also the most familiar. We think about overflowing landfills or that Iron Eyes Cody ad campaign from the 70s. Recycling helps keep our Earth clean. It counters habitat degradation, keeps trash out of landfills and away from waterways and oceans. It saves forests from being cut down and new mines from being built.

Recycling impacts our environment in less visible ways than clean sea birds and blissful hippies. When managed correctly, recycling materials is far more energy efficient than mining for raw ones - which means less air and water pollution for all of us. Depending on the material, recycling can save as much as 95% of the energy needed to manufacture products from new materials. That means 95% less coal or natural gas has to be burned to make these products, which has a significant impact on clearing our air.

If the environmental impacts aren’t enough, the recycling sector also has the potential to add thousands of sustainable jobs to the economy. According to the Indiana Recycling Coalition, recycling creates jobs at a 10:1 ratio compared to landfill operations. Those energy savings we mentioned above also translate into serious cost savings for manufacturers.

Some numbers to think about:

What’s Next?

Indy needs a recycling solution. For all our growth in recent years, we are behind the curve when it comes to our available recycling programs. What we put into recycling directly affects what we get out of it, and not just in terms of water bottles converted to recycled floor mats. The effort we invest into our recycling infrastructure today determines the positive impacts we glean from it tomorrow - for our environment, our economy, and our communities. Determining the best way to develop that infrastructure starts with knowledge.

SustainIndy has been hosting a series of public forums where city leaders and residents can learn - together - about best practices for municipal recycling.

If you’re an Indy resident, we eagerly invite you to join SustainIndy, Indiana Recycling Coalition, and city leaders on June 22nd at the Indianapolis Marriott East at 4:30 to learn about what recycling can do for our city. Learn more about the event.