Recycling is a process that involves identifying, collecting, sorting, and processing recyclable material to make new products and to keep the recyclable material from otherwise causing damage to the environment. You may already know the three R’s of recycling: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
So, what exactly is the impact of recycling on the environment? Why go through all the trouble? Let’s first look at the benefits of recycling:
1. To Protect the Environment
The basic purpose of recycling is to reduce the amount of waste that gets emitted into the environment. By recycling, we significantly reduce the amount of waste that piles up in landfills or gets incinerated. Landfills in many cities are designed to keep toxic waste from affecting human communities, but at a cost to the soil and ecosystem around it. Landfills can slo leak dangerous chemicals into the water supplies of nearby towns and cities. Burning the waste may be a quick way to dispose of the trash, but the carbon released into the atmosphere destroys our air.
2. To conserve natural resources
The earth’s natural resources are not infinite and the earth will have nothing to give us if we keep taking and taking without giving anything back. By recycling materials such as steel, paper, and glass, we save precious limited resources that would otherwise diminish if we didn’t adopt recycling. It is for this reason that some of the major manufacturers recognized the need to use recyclable material and adopted buy-back programs to recover used products that can be reengineered to make new products.
3. Promote energy efficiency
The energy levels used for recycling are much lower than those witnessed during actual manufacturing from raw materials. If recycling is done on a much larger scale, say nationwide or even regionally, the energy savings could be huge. It takes a lot of energy to extract, transport, and process raw materials from the source to the factory. However, recycling only entails sorting the collected material and refining it.
4. Leads to more job opportunities
Implementing recycling doesn’t automatically mean that the extraction and processing industries shut down. It just means that they lower the amounts of raw materials they have to use. On the other hand, new factories are being set up to handle recycling processes, leading to more jobs and boosting the economy. Human power is also needed to identify and collect the materials before they can be refined. All these are jobs being created in otherwise uncertain economic times.
5. Saves space used for waste disposal
A major portion of waste disposal sites and landfills are full of material that could have otherwise been taken to a recycling plant and be of use there. Real estate is selling at premium prices in today’s market, and all that wasted land used by landfills could have benefited housing projects, natural reserves or public space.
6. Sustains environment for future generations
Climate change is a big issue in the current world, and there is fear that if we don’t take the steps to conserve the environment now, future generations will pay for it. If generations past hadn’t done their part to conserve the environment, we would obviously have found it in a worse state than we did. It is up to us to continue their work and make the world a better place, not only for ourselves, but also for the young ones who will inherit the planet from us.
With these benefits in mind, let’s look at how we as individuals can use the impact of recycling to make a difference:
Collect recyclable materials
Taking part in the recycling process in and around the home is easy if you know how to go about it. First off, you can identify the materials that are easily recyclable, like plastic, glass, steel, paper, furniture, and electronic equipment. Next, you need to find out where to take these different kinds of materials to be recycled in your community.
Buy recyclable –and recycled– products
The retail industry has done a good job at taking up the recycling message, and coming up with packaging that is environmentally friendly. You can tell if a product adheres to this by taking a look at the package labels. Try and avoid products that contain hazardous and non-biodegradeable materials, like styrofoam and toxic chemicals. On the flip side, look out for plastics that include recycled materials and support the companies who are making an effort to use post-consumer waste in their packaging.
Keep a recycling bin
A recycling bin is one of the easiest ways to contribute to saving the environment. You can keep recyclable material away from the other waste products, and provide this material to the local waste collection service to deliver to recycling plants.
Plant trees and make recycled fertilizer
Trees play a major role in keeping the environment clean, and there can never be enough trees. Anywhere you can get the space and fertile soil to plant trees, go for it. To help make the soil more fertile, consider composting (recycling) your kitchen waste in your garden. Composting is the process whereby the waste decomposes naturally into soil, which creates soil that is rich in nutrients.
Get involved in recycling projects
Outside of the home, try as much as possible to get involved in community recycling projects. This you can do by coming up with new ideas to save the environment, or by donating resources such as time and money. Schools and businesses are mandated by local authorities to follow the best environmental practices, and educating others is an important part of realizing global change.
The impact of recycling starts with you, and it is through individual efforts that we can save the environment, the economy, and our own futures.