Environmental Benefits of Recycling
There will always be many environmental benefits of recycling, regardless of the times we live in.
Especially in a world like today, where natural resources (eg. fuels, metals, etc) and energy are being used up at an alarming rate, rapid deforestation is wiping out the earth’s forests and massive tons of waste is produced every second, the importance of recycling (and reducing and reusing) cannot be over-emphasized.
Reduce pollution. Help the environment by recycling.
One important reason for recycling is because recycling helps reduce pollution.
The manufacturing process (including the extraction of virgin materials from the earth) for many products releases waste that pollutes the environment. For example, chemicals used in the manufacturing process contribute to water pollution, especially if the contaminated water is not properly treated before its release to the environment. The power plants that provide the energy needed in the manufacturing process produce gases that pollute the air.
Hence, when we reduce and reuse (instead of buying new things all the time), and we recycle (instead of using own virgin materials), we reduce the pollution that results from manufacturing the new products. We can also minimize pollution from the burning of fuel in power plants that generate energy needed in the manufacturing process. These constitute part of the benefits of recycling.
The more we buy (as opposed to reducing), and the more we throw away (instead of reusing and recycling them), the more waste we create.
The waste we produce may come in the form of bottles, boxes, cans, refuse, furniture, clothing, paper products, packaging waste, glass, aluminium, plastic, metals and paperboard. This waste releases poisonous gases and chemicals into the environment during the disposal process.
For example, when the non-biodegradable products in our waste are burned, they often emit gases that deplete the ozone layer in the atmosphere, which in turn allows more ultraviolet radiation to reach our living atmosphere, giving rise to global warming and rising sea levels.
So how do the benefits of recycling come in?
Imagine if the various materials (especially the non-biodegradable ones) in our waste can be sent for recycling, the amount of waste that needs to be incinerated or buried in landfills would be reduced. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency asserts that 75 percent of the rubbish thrown away in the US could be recycled. Imagine how much more waste we could reduce, if we recycle (and reduce and reuse) more!
In turn, the poisonous gases and chemicals that would be released into the air, water and land from the rubbish in the landfills or burning of certain materials (eg. plastic) in the incinerators could be lessened. With less waste, there would also be less need for landfills and incinerators. These lands could then be freed up for other uses.
In other words, the benefits of recycling (and reducing and reusing) in preventing pollution are tremendous!
Conserve resources by recycling
Other important benefits of recycling include conserving resources.
The amounts of resources on the earth’s surface are finite. Fossil fuels and metals cannot be replenished by nature within our lifetime. And the more we extract these resources the less we leave for ourselves, and our future generations.
By recycling, there is less need for raw or virgin materials, less need for the resources that has to be planted, grown and harvested or extract from underground and less need for space in which to propagate these materials. By using recovered scrap materials (through recycling) in place of virgin ones, there is less demand for forestry and mining practices, which are environmentally devastating.
Recycling also helps us make full use of the precious materials that we have spent much resources, energy and effort to extract from the earth.
With such benefits of recycling, we should really start recycling now!
Conserve energy by recycling
Amongst the benefits of recycling is its importance in conserving energy.
It takes much less energy to make products using recycled materials as compared making products from raw materials.
This is because when products are made from raw materials, energy is not only expended in the production process. Energy is also required in the extraction of the virgin materials from the earth and the transportation of these virgin materials to the manufacturing plants.
Whereas for production using recycled materials, the raw materials are already available and the recyclables merely need to be broken down into their basic components for use in manufacturing (read more on the recycling process).
Let’s take a look at how this benefits of recycling translate into reality.
For example, approximately 95 percent of the energy used to produce an aluminium can from virgin materials can be saved by using recycled aluminium instead. This energy saved can in fact be used to run a television set for three hours!
The same is true for other materials (read more about the recycling statistics). Although the amount of energy saved differs by materials, almost all recycling processes achieve significant energy savings compared to virgin material production.
Paper, which can easily be recycled, can be made from recycled paper instead of newly cut trees. Glass cullet, the broken down glass destined for recycling, can be melted at lower temperatures allowing the glass production industry to reduce furnace times and temperature.
By reducing the amount of energy required in production of new materials through recycling, we are also conserving our energy resources, for ourselves as well as our future generations.
There is no doubt about the benefits of recycling. We have to start now!
Reduce deforestation by recycling
Last, but not least, one of the benefits of recycling includes reducing deforestation. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials, so that our forests can be preserved.
We obtain many resources from our forested land, including wood for paper, fuel and furniture, and even herbs for medicine.
Unfortunately, in meeting our unsatisfiable needs, the world is witnessing large scale deforestation and felling of trees, at a rapidly increasing rate beyond our imagination.
With every tree lost, a price is incurred, and this price we would have to continue paying.
Massive deforestation worldwide has had a large impact on the climate – the entire planet is scorching and temperatures are rising all over the world leading to the melting of the Arctic ice. We are seeing more extreme weather conditions, where summers are becoming too hot and winters too cold, and the earth experiences either floods or famine instead of steady rainfall like before.
No other species could’ve done this except for us, human beings!
Now that the damage is done, we can only start thinking of ways and means to reduce this damage and re-create a healthier, safer, and more balanced environment. One simple but extremely effective method of conserving forests and creating a greener world is by recycling (and reducing and reusing)!
Let’s consider the benefits of recycling paper. By recycling paper (AND using recycled paper), less trees need to be cut down to make paper, and more forests can be saved. In fact, by using one ton of recycled paper, we can effectively save close to 15 trees.
But it is not only about recycling (and reducing and reusing paper). There are many reasons why massive deforestation is taking place. But definitely, as we conserve our resources and energy sources through recycling (and reducing and reusing), and reducing the amount of waste we produce and hence the amount of space needed for landfills and incinerators, we can help reduce deforestation rates.
The benefits of recycling (and reducing and reusing) on deforestation and the environment cannot be imagined!
In fact, there are also other reasons why is recycling important, including economic, political and ethical ones.
So why hesitate. Let’s start recycling (and reducing and reusing) now!
Also, read more about the factors that are crucial for recycling to be successful.
Tips on recycling
Read about tips on recycling.
Also, read about what other readers have contributed on recycling tips.
And if you have recycling experiences of your own, tell us what you think is the most useful tip on recycling that others can benefit from.
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