Recycling decreases the amount of waste in landfills, reduces pollution by minimizing leaching and the need to collect new raw materials, conserves natural resources, lowers harmful greenhouse gas emissions and promotes job creation. In some cases, recycling is more energy efficient than manufacturing new items. For example, recycling metal uses less energy than mining, refining and forging it. Manufacturing plastic, however, is more energy efficient than recycling it.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling and composting reduced landfill waste by 34.5 percent, or 87 million tons, in 2012. The waste in landfills not only occupies precious land but also releases toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater.
In addition to offering environmental benefits, recycling stimulates economic growth. It provides income for companies that recycle waste and sell recycled products, which in turn has created thousands of jobs. Recycling potentially generates triple the revenue per ton that landfill does, and it creates six times as many jobs. Municipalities that pay for landfill use by the ton save millions of dollars through recycling and composting. Although people produce more solid municipal waste than they did before, recycling is more common. In 1990, 145.3 million tons of waste went to landfills. By 2012, this amount had decreased to 135 million tons.