With such constantly sprawling urban development in the United States, it seems that there is very little we can do to help minimize the harmful effects this has on the environment. But there is one thing that everyone can easily do to minimize this destruction: recycle.
When nonbiodegradable substances such as plastic or aluminum are added to landfills or just when they are thrown into the streets, eventually they will become buried underground or possibly find their way into local waterways through means of wind. Once they've reached their final destination, they can pose hazards for the local wildlife or leach toxic chemicals (used to make them) into their surroundings. By just making the effort to separate recyclable items from the regular trash, each person can play a part in the decrease of such pollution of nature.
However, the people can't do this without the help of the city government increasing the development and availability of such recycling programs. It's easy enough for individual households to have separate garbage cans for trash and recycling, but what about in public facilities or along city streets?
From what I've observed on a daily basis, often times the reason people don't recycle is because they are out in public and cannot find a nearby recycling can. I live in one of the largest cities and attend one of the most populated universities in the United States, and yet it still seems to me that access to public recycling can only be found sparsely.
If city programs developed this better, it would no longer be a problem. Perhaps one solution would be to place one recycling receptacle next to every government-funded trash bin. That would allow for recycling access on public streets and in public facilities, which could even include public school systems. This would tremendously expand the amount that recycling would be available to people, and in doing so largely help decrease environmental pollution.
Not only would these nonbiodegradable substances be kept out of the natural environment and the adverse affects of their presence on the surroundings be limited, but reusing these products would decrease the need for producing brand new items of the same kind, therefore reducing energy use by the factories.
Then again, maybe we should consider the benefits of not recycling before making any decisions based solely on the benefits of doing so.
Even though toxic substances contributed to the soil from nonbiodegradable materials would create inefficient living conditions for local plants and eventually cause them to die, maybe some new species of plant that can withstand and actually sustain off of toxic conditions will arise in their place. Who needs natural local species that have existed for centuries when we have some crazy new form of toxic hybrid plant?
Not to mention the new forms of oxygen that a plant using toxic chemicals as nutrients in its photosynthetic processes could produce. And maybe we would soon forget about natural fruits and vegetables, learning to love the taste of toxic produce.
As for the earth's animals, maybe they'll adapt to learn how to use aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and plastic rings from soda cans as resources rather than choking on them when attempting to eat them, or getting stuck in them. Maybe one day it will be considered natural beauty to see a beaver dam made entirely out of aluminum or to see birds with their legs or necks entangled in plastic, as if they were making some kind of natural fashion statement.
Then again, maybe not.
Jessica Fraker is a first-year student at Arizona State University pursuing a degree in biology.