Almost everything we take from the Earth – from our mines, quarries, sand and gravel pits, and oil and gas wells – falls into the category of nonrenewable resources.
That means that when we remove it, it's gone, and nature will not replenish it. That in turn means that, with our ever-increasing population, we must strive to use our natural resources more responsibly.
One effective way of conserving our natural resources is recycling: processing waste materials into new products, instead of just throwing them away.
For every pound of copper metal that we produce, for example, we must mine about 250 pounds of copper ore. The energy costs of mining all that rock, extracting the copper, and disposing of the depleted ore are considerable – thus it only makes sense to recycle the copper in our wires, pipes, and automobiles, instead of regarding it as trash and sending it to one of New Jersey’s landfills.
As things stand now, we get mixed reviews on how well we recycle our raw materials. On the one hand, we recycle far more today than we did two or three decades ago, and in total we recycle almost one-third of all the waste we produce. On the other hand, for some materials we have a long way to go.
Aluminum is a convenient example: for every ten cans of soda we drink in New Jersey, we send four cans to the landfill.
Nationally, between 1972 and 2004, more than one trillion cans were discarded instead of recycled, and by 2009 we were sending enough aluminum to landfills every three months to rebuild the entire commercial aircraft fleet of this nation. For plastic water bottles the situation is even worse.
Here at Sterling Hill Mining Museum we actively encourage our visitors to recycle.
Recycling bins are conveniently located in several places on-site – please use them. And when you go home after your tour, please consider how you handle your own household waste.