By the sheer luck of a number of cosmic forces well beyond our comprehension, we’ve been given the gift of one glorious blue marble to live on, but when was the last time that any of us took even a small moment to give thanks? Thanks? Since when was that a requirement of being an earthling? After reading the first paragraph, the typical U.S. citizen might argue that he or she already has the weight of the world on his or her shoulders. Personal and familial responsibilities can be challenging enough to deal with, not to mention the increased strain of our current economy, hanging onto a 9-5 job and let’s not forget meeting monthly financial obligations. It’s not a stretch to suggest that these days, simply remaining afloat is perhaps the number one thing that yanks are most thankful for. As for feeling blessed that planet earth is still spinning? Um, not so much. The iconic image of our global stomping grounds — photographed by the Apollo 17 crew back in 1972 — may cause us to take pause and utter an audible “Wow,” but at the end of the day, we’re still going to do what we typically do to enjoy our lives. It’s not like the earth is really going to go poof if we don’t recycle every glass bottle and steel can. Our planet has been in existence for approximately 4.54 billion years and most of us are probably hedging our bets that it’ll be around at least long enough for us to reach our personal life expectancies. What happens once we pass on? Don’t tell anyone I said this, but who cares? (You know that’s what you’re thinking.) Unfortunately, that widely held perception is exactly the problem. At least in the U.S., we commonly justify that the precarious state of the planet is by no means our personal fault, so why should we have to make any sacrifices to our lifestyle? It’s just not fair, we argue. Life’s tough enough as it is, and at the end of a long work week, we should be able to plunk down in front of our ginormous flat-screen TV while gorging on a corn-fed T-bone steak with no guilt whatsoever. This western recycling culture, however, becomes terribly problematic when it’s embraced by all 311,271,000 of us. Even if just half of the American population believes in living solely for No. 1, it adds up to one sizable ecological mess. By contrast, the following global recycling efforts are worth consideration, since they prove individually and collectively that a better waste reclamation system is entirely possible.
- Mandatory recycling for all German residents, amounting to 167 pounds of packaging diverted from landfills per person annually.
- Consumer must presort and separate all materials by color/type.
- All municipalities offer same five color-coded neighborhood and curbside recycling bins to collect everything from assorted types of glass and paper, to plastic, household and biological waste.
- They even recycle human graves!
- Residents recycle 52% of their total waste, which is more than any other country in the world.
- A comprehensive system of collection bins designated for various types of colored glass, paper, clothing, batteries and even aluminum coffee pods ensures that a higher reclamation rate is maintained.
- Anything that can compromise the health of the environment, such as energy, pollution and garbage, is automatically taxed so that consumers are compelled to make smarter ecological decisions. Consequently, consumers must pay a fee for each bag of waste that they throw away as well as an advance recycling fee for new appliances that will eventually meet the end of their usable life.
- Roughly 200,000 individuals in Dharavi are gainfully employed as recycling entrepreneurs who individually sort through 8.5 tons of waste on a daily basis.
- Each year, 40% of the 500,000 tons of e-waste produced by India is recycled by approximately 80,000 villagers, which, while great for the environment, is not so great for laborers who sustain countless health problems since they do so without the assistance of protective gear.
- Like India’s underappreciated waste heroes, Chinese garbage pickers, who earn approximately 15¢ per kilogram of recycled plastic, contribute to a thriving $14-billion recycling business.
- The Taipei government has successfully reduced the volume of waste that its residents produce thanks to a fee that increases when people throw away more items. Plus, public trash cans are all but nonexistent.