Why Is Recycling Important?

“Waste Land” Vik Muniz Paints Portraits of Garbage Pickers


Waste is probably the most important thing that almost nobody ever thinks about. Garbage and solid waste on a massive, global scale currently pose an existential threat to humanity. Current consumption of goods and levels of industrial production are such that the most common solution to solid waste and particularly municipal solid waste is to heap it all into landfills where, studies show, that the fifty million plus tons of plastic garbage alone that is produced in the United States and Europe will persist in the soil for centuries. Solid waste management, while yawn-inducing by name, is in actual fact a Kafkaesque nightmare that just might destroy the planet. For example, In California “Additional research would be required to develop an appropriate standard for evaluating the future potential for a landfill to “pose a threat” prior to the incorporation of a new regulation in California” (California, 2). 

As of now, few viable alternatives exist to landfills. If plastic waste is incinerated, it simply increases the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere. The hydrocarbon base of plastics means that they are difficult to dispose of in any sustainable fashion. By 2050, the United Nations estimate that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, and the World Bank that solid waste will increase by 70%. The inadequacy of existing trash containers and landfills may lead to the accumulation of garbage on city streets and to illegal dumping, with serious consequences for public health. At the same time, more frequent waste collection means more air and noise pollution, traffic, and higher public costs. Therefore, waste is a serious issue for all communities around the world, big or small, rural or urban, low-tech or industrialized.

Research Question: The study evaluates the significance of garbage recycling by examining its effect on the environment.


Datasets: OECD, City Of New York, arcgis.com

Tool:  Tableau, ArcGIS

Methods & Findings

Figure #1: The Importance of Garbage Collection (ArcGIS)

Adding fuel to this already dangerous fire is the exploding global population, the quick spread of industrialization throughout the developing world, and a worldwide rise in living standards. Because different regulations exist in different countries, the full impact of industrial waste is very difficult to estimate or control. In order to help reader gain insight into vast amounts of data and information. I use Figure 1 to illustrate the importance of garbage collection. I use the sources from the Open street map, derived from human activities in New York based on the density of POI data. Generally, garbage collection must be directly linked to the physical space. POI data is the information data of various places, and directly reflects the space places of human activities. Figure 1 shows the better we live, it seems, the more garbage we create.

Maybe people think that garbage is uncontrollable and irreversible, but serious recycling and utilization can actually greatly reduce the harm to the environment. It’s not just the amount of trash that we have, the problem is the kind of trash. Some materials are pollutants and, in some cases are toxic. This garbage is always on an industrial scale, there will be relevant departments to solve these problems. But municipal waste is defined as more commonly known as trash or garbage—consisting of everyday items we use and then throw away. This comes from our homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses. The definition excludes waste from municipal sewage networks and treatment, as well as waste from construction and demolition activities.

Figure #2: Municipal Waste Indices in Different Countries

As cities grow, so does the amount of garbage we produce. How can we deal with these interrelated and seemingly insurmountable issues? What is known is that more sustainable and environmentally conscious methods and models must be developed in countries with strong economies in order to set the standard for those countries that are still developing. 

Therefore, I extracted some data about municipal waste from the OECD webpage, and I choose a few countries that are representative of the growth data making a line chart (Figure 2) illustrating the change in total municipal waste in different countries over 20 years. I use different colors to distinguish each country, also using a line chart can easier visualize the trends over time regarding how different countries produce municipal waste, such as Norway and Japan. In Figure 2 these two countries show really different growth trends, which shows us that municipal waste can be controlled and reduced. Notably, countries like Poland, the United States, and New Zealand have recorded the highest waste values over the period. Analyzing their environment proves that there has been a subsequent reduction in their natural resources. Their societies have resorted to man-made resources to sustain people, animals, and plants. Adopting recycling can restore their natural resources to their optimum capacities. They can reclaim the resources that are completely depleted and conserve those that are limited to reinforce the ecosystem.

Figure #3: Map Indicating the Number of Solid Waste Treatment Plants Across Different States

I used some data from the Arcgis webpage to make two maps, by combining data from Waste Treatment Plants and Sewage Treatment Plants respectively with US County Bound. Recycling solid wastes can curb different kinds of pollution. The visual representing the number of solid waste treatment plants across different states in the country proves the detrimental impacts of industrialization (Figure 3). There are more countries colored blue and green than colored orange and red. In other words, there are more states with 0-50 and 51-100 solid waste treatment plants than those with 201-300 and 301-792 plants. The few plants are unable to sustain the waste from the numerous products and manufacturing factories around the countries. It culminates in air, land, and water pollution due to the inefficient disposal of solid wastes in the environment. Recycling can offer more initiative for dealing with waste. It can offer solutions for treating and reusing waste products as beneficial byproducts.

Figure #4: Map Indicating the Number of Sewage Treatment Plants Across Different States

Recycling can provide alternative energy sources. The map depicting the number of sewage treatment plants across different states reveals deficiencies in energy solutions (Figure 4). Most states have between 0 and 500 sewage treatment plants but only Wyoming has between 10001 and 84414. The former states are mostly located along the coastline, which explains the increased water contamination around the area. Treatment plants serve as a viable source of renewable energy. They treat and recycle sewage to produce disparate forms of biogas that could be used for human activities such as cooking, heating, and warming. Adopting them around the country could reduce reliance on energy sources that are detrimental to the environment like fossil fuels.

Figure #5: What a Waste Database

Charts and other visualizations were created by Tableau to support my better presentation of the research question I raised. It would be time-consuming to write down all the countries in the world and make readers scroll through much information to feasibility. So I make an interactive map that would be easy for people to read information. Readers can explore the data for different types of waste in various countries around the world by changing the x and y on the chart.

Figure #6: Scatter Plot Showing the Distribution of Composition Plastic Percentage and GDP.

For example, one of the parts of the interaction diagram is talk about the recycling is positioned to improve the GDPs of nations. In the scatter plot (Figure 6), it is evident that countries with the lowest GDP have the highest composition plastic percentages. This tendency can be seen from the concentration of light blue and deep blue spots, representing Lower-Income Countries (LIC) and Lower-Middle Income Countries (LMC) respectively, below the average of 20K. The High-Income Countries (HICs) and Upper-Middle Income Countries (UMCs) are evenly distributed beyond the average. Implementing strategies meant to promote recycling can lead to the creation of job opportunities and increased sales of finished recycled products. Adheres can attain its milestones with regard to revenue generation and profitability. In turn, they can enable their countries to achieve higher GDPs through improved exports and international relations while upholding environmental conservation.


Grave evidence exists to show that solid waste poses a health risk to everyday citizens. These facts combined with the visualizations make it evident that there is a need for waste recycling. The amount of solid waste will only increase over time which means that the issue of waste disposal is every bit as important as nuclear proliferation. Waste recycling is an important component of sustainable waste management since it involves translating waste into raw materials instead of distancing such materials into the environment. The findings above explain the importance of recycling many wastes and the positive effects it will bring to the country. Based on the illustrations, the future direction for the experiment would be to determine where to initiate garbage recycling programs. For example, the US demonstrates a high level of solid waste production, which a high population can cause. Thus, the experiment can attempt to identify how many recycling programs exist within the US or which states lead in solid waste production.


California Integrated Waste Management Board, and GeoSyntec Consultants. Landfill Facility Compliance Study Task 6 Report-Review of MSW Landfills Regulations from Selected States and Countries. California Environmental Protection Agency, Integrated Waste Management Board, 2004.

OECD (2022), Municipal waste (indicator). doi: 10.1787/89d5679a-en (Accessed on 22 October 2022). https://data.oecd.org/waste/municipal-waste.htm

Solid_ Waste _Landfill _ Facilities. Arcgis.com. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=d3a986e2d2d94b958e879955b3f6b66f

US County Boundaries. Arcgis.com. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=df53bb7c871b4e13a59e4310a581a917

Wastewater Treatment Plants. Arcgis.com. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=64e17a688d824fda873eed86ee344e40