- Long ago, people made their own baskets, clay bottles, and string bags to carry products home. Those "packages" lasted for years. Now soup comes in metal cans. Other products are wrapped in paper, cardboard, or plastic. Buy something for a dollar, and ten cents of that dollar pays for its package! Americans spend $28 billion a year for packaging, which we throw away.
- On average, every American uses more than 500 pounds of paper per year. Books, cartons, letters, and newspapers are natural products made from trees. It can be used over again if it is recycled.
- In 2006, a record 53.4 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling. Americans recovered an extraordinary 53.5 million tons, averaging 360 pounds per person.
- Chances are the next soda can you open is made of aluminum from recycled cans. Last year, Americans bought 80 billion aluminum cans. Take your used cans to the curb or to the recycling center and the aluminum may come back to you in a new can in only three months.
(L)Charles Moore, an oceanographer, believes there are about 100 million tons of plastic circulating in the northern Pacific, or about 2.5 percent of all plastic items made since 1950. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be twice the size of France. (M)Canoeing in Fourche Creek in Arkansas convinced our teens to start the "Talkin' Trash" Project. (R) A simple way to prevent what you see in the other two pictures
- Banana peels and apple cores decay into the soil in less than six weeks. Paper takes a little longer. Metal cans may last 200 years. Plastics can take 500 years to lose their form and again become part of Earth's natural system.
- Plastic doesn't exist in the natural world. It is made by humans from petroleum. There are 46 kinds of plastic. A ketchup bottle may be made of six layers, all different.
- Americans threw away 38 billion plastic water bottles in 2006.
- You can now purchase plastic bags that bio-degrade, which means the plastic will break down and turn back into an organic form.
- Recycling waste saves space and energy. When a product is made from recycled material, precious natural resources are kept for the future. Rubber mats on the playground may come from old tires. A toy may come from a discarded plastic milk jug. T-shirts made from recycled soda bottles are available now. Making paper from recycled waste uses half the energy it takes to make paper from trees.
- An American baby uses more than 7,000 disposable diapers while growing up. That means parents toss away about 16 billion of those paper and plastic diapers every year. Many people believe parents ought to use old-fashioned cotton diapers for their babies. They can be used over and over — perhaps 120 times!