We hear and read so much about recycling on a regular basis that at times the simplest and the most basic things get lost in the noise…buried under a pile of compelling statistics, surprising facts, and interesting tidbits.
I feel it’s time to go back to the basics and take a refresher course in recycling in its simplest form – what it is and why is it so important in the present context.
As you probably already know, recycling is the process of segregating, collecting, recovering, and processing useful materials from a product once it has reached the end of its useful life and reusing it for manufacturing new products. While the definition of recycling is simple, the actual process is far from it.
Recycling involves using a series of complex techniques for sorting and processing materials and is best left to experts in the industry with the knowledge, tools, and resources to carry out these activities in a safe and responsible manner.
But why is Recycling So Important?
If I had to answer the above question in one sentence, I would say- to save the earth and I am sure none of us want our planet to perish because of the things we humans do. We’re the only ones who cut down forests, destruct habitats, guzzle natural resources and pollute the environment. It’s on us to save the earth and recycling is one way to do it. Here’s how:
Recycling saves the environment: Do you know how many trees are cut each year to make paper? Nearly 4 billion representing 35 percent of the entire tree cover. Even if these trees were planted exclusively for harvesting, there are environmental impacts of cutting them down. Recycling helps save trees and therefore the environment.
Recycling reduces metal mining: Recycling, especially scrap metal recycling, helps conserve natural resources by reducing the need to mine virgin ore. Metals are a finite source, which means that if we continue to extract them from the earth at the rate we are, we’ll soon run out. Metal recycling is an easy solution to the problem. Many metals, including aluminum and steel, are a 100 percent recyclable and can be recycled over and over again. Additionally, recycling helps recover many rare earth elements used for manufacturing electronics that are not just difficult, but also expensive to mine.
Recycling saves energy: The process of material extraction and manufacturing products requires a great deal of energy. But using recycled material consumes much less energy as compared to virgin ores or materials. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI), energy saved using recycling material is up to 92 percent for aluminum, 90 percent for copper, 87 percent for plastic, 68 percent for paper, 56 percent for steel, and 34 percent for glass.
Recycling helps the climate: Material extraction and manufacturing not only require energy, but also produce heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are believed to be the biggest cause of global warming. Recycling helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, 10 tonnes of recycled aluminum helps avoid 71.1 tonnes of CO2 e.
Recycling diverts waste from landfills: Landfills are like these modern-day gas chambers that consist of dangerous gases like methane and carbon dioxide resulting from decomposition of waste. These gases are not only harmful for the environment, but also human health. Hazardous substances from the waste can also leech into the ground and contaminate our soil as well as water resources. The more we recycle, the less waste will end up at these landfills to pollute our environment and put human health at risk.
Recycling helps make money: A lot of the everyday products that we deem waste have considerable value in the scrap market. Many private dealers buy recyclable items such as old electronics, ferrous and non-ferrous metal scrap, plastic, etc. from individuals and organizations. Read this article on how it pays to recycle. These items are then processed and sold as recycled feedstock to manufacturers, thus forming an important link in the recycling chain.
Recycling supports the economy: Recycling is an important industry and creates not just green jobs for millions of Americans, but also generates billions of dollars in revenue. According to the data available with the EPA, the recycling and reuse industry consists of approximately 56,000 establishments that employ over 1.1 million people, generate an annual payroll of nearly $37 billion, and gross over $236 billion in annual revenues.