Reading comprehension

Julie Lewis, from Oregon, in the United States, is wearing an expensive-looking pair of boots. They are durable yet fashionable. Just by looking at them, you would never know that they were made entirely of recycled materials. Julie owns her own shoemaking company and has achieved a long-term ambition to turn waste into something useful. The shoes are made from all sorts of otherwise useless materials, including textile scraps, rubber from tyres, and plastic bags. Julie knows that she cannot solve the world’s environmental problems single-handed, but nonetheless she feels she is doing good at a local level.

Recycling has become extremely popular in the US, particularly in recent years when the number of recycling schemes has increased by 500 percent. 65 percent of aluminium cans are recycled plus a quarter of paper and 20 percent of glass. The enthusiasm for re-using materials has come from the realisation that Americans produce far more waste per person than most Europeans; a total of 200 million tons a year. This is twice as much per capita as Germany, for example, and it would be enough to fill a line of dustbin lorries stretching eight times around the world.

The US even exports its waste. Taiwan buys used paper to make more paper and Japan uses American scrap metal and makes it into new cars, which it then sells back to the US. Two thirds of the remaining waste is buried in landfill sites. Disposal of waste poses a major problem. Landfill sites can cause pollution of water supplies. And as sites fill up, new ones need to be found. Some rubbish is burnt but this pollutes the atmosphere. The obvious answer, then, is to recycle more. Recycling is already big business – Julie Lewis being a perfect example. Her company has attracted millions of dollars worth of investment. Recycled products are no longer seen as poor quality goods but as desirable alternatives.

A hugely successful scheme has been operating in Palm Beach County since 1988. Rubbish is sorted into different categories. Paper, glass and plastic are sold to recycling firms. Kitchen waste is used to power a generator which supplies electricity to 30,000 houses. Other materials are used to make soil, which is then used for growing fruit and vegetables.

There are of course economic arguments against recycling. It can be expensive to run the schemes. And as Lynn Scarlett, a government adviser from Los Angeles, argues it does not make economic or environmental sense to transport materials for recycling from areas which still have plenty of landfill space.

Manufacturers in Germany are trying to solve the problem at the production stage, mainly by looking at how their goods are packaged. Soap powders are now more concentrated and packed in small containers, toothpaste tubes are sold without boxes and plastic wrapping has been reduced.

In a time when newspapers and TV news bulletins are filled with depressing stories of environmental disasters, it is important to remind people, especially children, that they can make a difference. After all, they can recycle their waste every day of their lives.


  1. Julie Lewis has always wanted …
  2. A) to run her own business.
  3. B) to be involved in recycling.
  4. C) to look fashionable.
  5. D) to wear expensive shoes.


  1. Americans now recycle far more than they used to because …
  2. A) they are competing with Germany.
  3. B) they want to make a profit from recycling.
  4. C) they need more aluminium.
  5. D) they realised how much they waste.


  1. What is Julie Lewis a “perfect example” of?
  2. A) The fact that re-using waste is a money-making activity.
  3. B) The fact that more rubbish should be burnt.
  4. C) The fact that women can attract investment.
  5. D) The fact that recycled products can be of high quality.


  1. What does the Palm Beach County scheme involve?
  2. A) making energy out of waste
  3. B) selling fruit and vegetables for profit
  4. C) producing plastic bottles
  5. D) opening new recycling business


  1. Recycling is particularly important for children because …
  2. A) it encourages them to read newspapers.
  3. B) it shows them that they can do something useful.
  4. C) it is depressing.
  5. D) it is specially planned for them