Recycling involves processing materials into new products to avoid wasting the raw materials. Recycling cuts down on water pollution due to drainage from landfills. Recycled materials are brought to recycling centers, sorted, cleaned and reprocessed into new materials. Common recyclables include paper, glass, plastic, and metal. The process of recycling trash, especially for Western nations that produce millions of tons of trash each year, is very likely a good idea. The politics of recycling have people lining up on both sides, each as adamant in their beliefs as the other and each with a barrage of evidence to support their claims. Pro-recyclers claim the benefits of saved energy and trees, cleaner air and water, and the reduction of the presence of hazardous materials in the environment. Critics dispute the economic benefits of recycling and point to the loss of jobs in logging, mining, and other industries connected with first-time production which cannot be offset by jobs in the recycling industry.
From a Christian perspective, we know that we are called to be good stewards of the earth. God created the earth and gave man dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:6-8), and we are to be responsible caretakers of it. Christians should be concerned about clean air, clean water, and the preservation of natural resources to the best of our ability. But Christians understand that the Bible tells us the earth is temporary. No amount of recycling or “thinking green” will forestall the end that God has planned for the earth. Despite all the best plans of men to preserve the planet, there will come a time when the earth and all He has created will be destroyed. “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10). The earth itself is winding down in preparation for that cataclysmic event, one that will cause man’s destructive behaviors toward the environment to pale in comparison. Romans 8:20-22 speaks of a creation which groans in anticipation of the time when it will be set free from the bondage to the principle of decay. This is the end we should be looking to and planning for and which should make our evangelistic efforts all the more urgent. Soda cans can be recycled; people cannot. Therefore, our greatest efforts should be toward saving souls, not the planet.
In the end, whether or not to recycle is a matter of conscience and should not to be viewed legalistically. Christians who feel it’s important to recycle should certainly do so. Those who don’t are free not to. But as with all things, recycling should not divide Christian believers from each other (Luke 11:17). Care and concern for one another far outweighs care and concern for the environment.