Help The Environment By Recycling

Wondering how you can help the environment by recycling?

Recycling is the process of giving old or used things a new lease of life, by making new things out of the old materials (read more about what recycling is about).

Recycling actually does a lot for the environment. As you will read about more below, recycling is one of the simplest, yet crucial things, you can do for the environment.

Help the environment by recycling – how it works

One of the most direct ways recycling contributes to a greener environment is through reducing waste.

Reducing waste is important because energy and natural resources (e.g. land for burial of rubbish) are needed in waste management. Pollution is also created in the process, regardless of the method of waste management employed.

What this means is that the more waste there is to handle, the more energy and natural resources will be used up, and the more pollution would be created. And this pollution could be in the form of land pollution (e.g. chemicals leeching from landfills), air pollution (e.g. fumes emitted from landfills or the incineration of waste like plastic) and water pollution (e.g. rubbish that end up in the oceanic garbage patches).

You can help the environment by recycling, because when you recycle, you actually divert substantial amounts of materials away from the waste management system, and re-channel these materials where they can be put to better use, instead of being buried or burnt. By recycling, you also help to reduce the pollution associated with landfills and incinerators.

Another reason why you can help the environment by recycling is because recycling reduces the need for virgin materials, which in turn helps to reduce environmental pollution related to extraction of virgin materials.

Because recycling channels used and unwanted materials back into the manufacturing process, it actually helps reduce the amount of virgin materials needed in manufacturing. For example, you might be aware that plastic is created from petroleum. Instead of creating from scratch (i.e. from petroleum) new plastic for plastic products, recycled plastic can be used to produce these plastic products. In this way, less petroleum would be used, and less plastic would have to be rendered as waste to be buried or incinerated. And less plastic would end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That is an important reason why you can help the environment by recycling.

With less need for raw virgin materials like wood pulp for paper, coal or metals, there would be less need for the various material extraction activities like deforestation and mining – some of the main contributors of pollution.

For example, when more of the paper you use at school or in your office can be produced from recycled paper fibres, less trees would need to be cut down to produce virgin paper fibres to make paper. This is important because the large scale felling of trees – deforestation, can bring about serious soil erosion and land pollution, disrupt biodiversity in existing forest land and contribute substantially to green house gasses.

In the same way, when metals like zinc, aluminium and copper can be recycled, less of these metals need to be mined from the metal ores in the ground. And this in turn helps the environment because mining activities are often associated with major water pollution and soil pollution. In fact, mining activities that are not well-managed can kill. For example, according to Wikipedia, the illegal extraction of ore by villagers in Zamfara State (Nigeria) early 2010 led to the death of more than 163 people, who come into contact with water, soil and tools polluted with heavy metal from the mining site.

What all these mean is that you can actually help the environment by recycling.

What about the carbon footprint of recycling?

Some people point out that there is a carbon footprint to recycling.

Yes, it cannot be denied that recycling does result in some carbon footprints.

For example, energy is needed to transport the recyclable materials to the recycling facilities. Energy is also needed to have these recyclables cleaned, sorted and at time reprocessed before they can be reused in the manufacturing process. For example, waste paper need to be repulped and waste metal melted, prior to reprocessing into new paper or new metal items. And given that we are currently very much reliant on fossil fuels for our energy today, the amount of greenhouse gas and the carbon footprint left behind by the recycling process is definitely not negligible.

So you might be wondering if you can still help the environment by recycling, given the carbon footprint associated with the recycling process.

I too have thought about this question, and what I think is that recycling is still our best bet. The ideal solution to helping the environment would really be that all of us reduce our consumption and waste production by reducing and reusing. But in the face of our strong consumerism culture today, it is very hard to convince people to reduce and reuse (try convincing your sister or sister-in-law to reduce her shopping), least to say ask them to practice reducing and reusing. Even if you manage to practice these two green principles (good for you!), it is not going to easy to convince others around you to do the same.

So like I said, the next best thing we can do for the environment is to recycle.

In looking at the carbon footprint left behind by the recycling process, we need to bear in mind too that by not recycling, there is an EVEN LARGER footprint left behind – in terms of the pollution we create in the waste management process, the pollution and destruction to the natural environment that we create when we seek to extract more and more resources from the earth (even when we know that these resources are finite), etc.

So that is why, I strongly believe that we can, and must, help the environment by recycling.

And it is not sufficient for only you and I to recycle – more people and organizations need to play their part and contribute as well.

That means that other than practicing recycling yourself, one of the other things you can do to help the environment is to encourage others to recycle too. Below are some tips you can share with those around you to help the environment by recycling.

Tips to help the environment by recycling

Spread the message on the importance of recycling using Facebook, Twitter etc. These social media are useful platforms for sharing of information. You can make use of the Facebook and Twitter buttons below to share this page on how to help the environment by recycling. If you need more information on the benefits of recycling, you can find it at the article “why is recycling important” .

Once you, and those around you, are convinced about the importance of recycling, here are some simple tips you can adopt:

  • read about what you can recycle, and what you can’t – mixing the two can lead to the contamination of recyclable materials, in turn leading to wastage
  • learn about the various recycling symbols and recycling codes and learn to sort out your recyclables accordingly, so as to facilitate recycling
  • for recycling to be profitable (and hence continue to take place), there must be demand for goods made of recycled materials. Hence, to help the environment by recycling, you also need to choose products made of recycled materials over products made of virgin materials. In this way, the recycling loop can be closed.

And if you want to go a step further, seek to reduce and reuse (as mentioned above).

In fact, reducing and reusing comes first before recycling in the 3R waste management hierarchy – producing less waste and pollution is much better than finding environmentally friendly ways to deal with the waste and pollution we have produced.

Do your part for the earth today – help the environment by recycling. Or even better, by reducing and reusing.

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