5 Top Effects Of Not Recycling On The Environment 

As we continue to grow conscious and care for the environment, we recognize the negative impact of not recycling in the environment.

Since the production of metals, plastics, nylon, glass, aluminum and other non-biodegradable products, there has been a solid need to recycle in our environment constantly. Recycling is integral to cleansing our environment, especially daily garbage and waste. 

Some significant benefits of recycling include pollution control, reducing waste in landfills, and averting natural disasters. Therefore when we do not recycle, the consequences could be dire.

What happens when we do not recycle? What are the effects of not recycling?

Read more to find out the effects of not recycling on the environment.

Effects of Not Recycling on the Environment 

  • Landfills fill up faster
  • Production of greenhouse gasses 
  • Depletion of fossil fuels 
  • Pollution 
  • Exploitation of natural resources 

Landfills fill up faster.

Landfills are sites designed to dump waste materials for an extended period. By not recycling, landfills fill up faster and sometimes can overflow. About 80% of what is found in landfills is solid and other materials that could be recycled. 

Dumping recyclable waste materials into landfills takes up space that could have been used for non-recyclable materials, thus making them fill up faster. Over the years, there has been a spike in the establishment of new landfills worldwide. According to the waste business journal data, as of 2022, the United States landfills have only about 12-16 years of capacity.

 Once this happens, virgin lands or residential areas may be converted into new landfills. Landfills produce methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. The release of methane and carbon dioxide increases climatic temperature, and global urbanization thus contributes to global warming. Carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide also displace oxygen and pollute air. 

Toxic chemicals and heavy metals such as Mercury, lead and arsenic can seep into the soil, altering the PH and the natural flora. Landfill sites are also responsible for groundwater contamination as heavy metals and other toxic chemicals, by-products of solids can seep through the soil into groundwater and spill into nearby water bodies, leading to water pollution. 

Production of greenhouse gasses 

Solid waste, such as plastics and other petroleum products, directly produces greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore recycling over 1-2 tonnes of plastics and other petroleum products saves 2-4 tonnes of carbon dioxide, thus reducing energy consumption. When we do not recycle, there is an increase in the emission of greenhouse gasses due to the rise in energy consumption. 

The anaerobic decay of waste generates methane, while nitrous oxide is generated for landfills. The greenhouse gases produced by methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and other synthetic compounds absorb radiation and trap some of the earth’s energy and heat in the atmosphere. The air produced is warmer than the average temperature. 

Depletion of fossil fuels 

Fossil fuels are obtained from decomposed plankton plants and small water creatures that existed about 350-299 million years ago (carboniferous period). Plankton decomposes to produce oil and gas, while plants decompose to form fossil coals. These fossil fuels are natural resources that serve as starter materials used in production. 

As we continue not to recycle, we will need to use more fossil fuels for display. Continuous use of fossil fuels will lead to their depletion, and once they are depleted, they cannot be recycled or reused.


One of the effects of not recycling is an increased form of pollution. 

Soil pollution: An accumulation of compounds such as styrofoam and other biological waste products from landfills can seep into the soil, forming cancerous cells. These cells remain potent in the ground for long periods contributing to soil pollution. Also, plastics and plastic-like materials slowly disintegrate into the soil, releasing toxic compounds that alter the soil’s pH, humidity, texture, porosity, nature, and health.

Land pollution: Items that are not recycled cause an increase in the number of landfills contributing to land pollution. Also, landfills or incinerators can alter the area’s beauty or environment. Unrecycled plastics and wastes dumped on land can be washed into the ocean or river during heavy downpours leading to pollution, loss of habitat, and affecting marine species. 

Water pollution: Aluminium, plastic, wood, and other waste directly into water bodies cause water pollution. Plastics slowly disintegrate in water into microplastics. These microplastics can be lodged into the gills of aquatic species.

In addition, plastics and microplastics contribute to the depletion of oxygen in water, thereby, aquatic and plant organisms have access to a reduced quantity of oxygen.Solid waste in water bodies leads to depression of oxygen which can harm or cause the death of aquatic and plant species.

Air pollution: Burning waste in incinerators produces many harmful toxins released into the air, leading to air pollution. Some of the gases contribute to the production of acid rain.

Also, activities such as burning fossil fuels, oil gas, and coal production of new materials contribute significantly to air pollution. Not recycling increases the production and generation of gases released into the atmosphere.

Exploitation of natural resources

Continuous mining for natural resources such as copper, iron and metals from the earth can lead to their depletion quicker than expected. The drilling of the earth to dig natural resources used in production generates a lot of fumes and gases, leading to environmental and air pollution, which are contributors to global warming.

The Benefits of recycling 

The effects of not recycling can be devastating leading to increased production of greenhouse gases, depletion of natural resources, and damage to the environment. On the other hand, recycling has some positive effects. Let’s look at some benefits of recycling in the environment. 

It reduces the need to exploit our natural resources 

Prevents deforestation

Clean air and water 

Production of greenhouse gasses 

Saves energy and resources 

Preservation of fossil fuels 

Reduction of plastic pollution 

Decrease in demand for raw materials 

It reduces the need to exploit our natural resources 

Recycling reduces activities such as mining and drilling that contribute to natural resource exploitation. By recycling, we can also further invest in materials that could have been considered garbage or waste. Examples include aluminium, copper and steel. These recycled materials save energy, time, and money and protect the environment from exploitation.

Prevents deforestation

Recycling paper and wood helps to reduce the number of trees that fall annually. These trees provide man and the environment with clean oxygen, serve as a windbreaker and prevent erosion. 

Trees also help to maintain a normal and natural balance in the atmosphere. By recycling, we are not only protecting the trees but also our forests. 

Clean air and water

When we recycle, we reduce the amount of waste deposited in landfills. This reduces the amount of pollutants (toxic) that can be released into the air. 

Also, recycling keeps our groundwater and protects water bodies from contamination and pollution. This is done by recycling plastics and other materials that could disintegrate and release certain toxic chemicals that can seep through the soil into groundwater and water bodies. 

Production of greenhouse gasses

Recycling helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses produced in landfills. By recycling, we reduce the amount of energy consumption. 

Also, greenhouse gasses are produced when producing new materials. Recycling products will reduce the need to constantly make new products, thereby reducing the amount of land used for extracting materials.

Save energy and Resources 

The energy and resources put into making new materials require much work and energy. By recycling, we can save energy and preserve our natural resources for much longer.

Preservation of fossil fuels

The continual production of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials made from fossil fuels contributes to the depletion of fossil fuels. Recycling of plastics and other materials saves us from burning fossils. This way, we can preserve them for more extended periods. 

Reduction of plastic pollution

When we recycle, we reduce the amount of new plastics produced worldwide. The amount of plastic seen in water bodies contributes greatly to water pollution. 

Plastic pollution affects marine life, sometimes causing the death of marine species. By recycling, we can save our water and aquatic species, and the environment will be better.

Decrease in demand for raw materials

In addition to the depletion of natural resources, which can be caused by not recycling, another disadvantage is an increased demand for raw materials. As the growing need for producing new materials continues to grow, it has led to exploitation and displacement of the poor and vulnerable, especially those that stay around the forest and riverine areas. 

This results from the search for new raw materials such as timber, wood and other natural resources in such areas. Therefore it is better to recycle than to cause damage to people’s community and disrupt their livelihood.


Recycling is the best way of saving and protecting our environment. We can see the effects of not recycling on the environment and the extent of damage that it can cause for thousands of years.

As concerned citizens and environmentalists, we must contribute to protecting our environment. In doing this, we can make a difference.

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