The world population is growing, not shrinking, and currently, each human being adds significant waste to the planet over his or her lifetime. And recycling is one of the best ways for humanity to have a positive impact on the world in which we live.
So what is recycling?
Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. It is an alternative to "conventional" waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" waste hierarchy. Thus, recycling aims at environmental sustainability by substituting raw material inputs into and redirecting waste outputs out of the economic system.
What are the benefits of recycling?
1. Recycling conserves resources.
When we recycle, used materials are converted into new products, reducing the need to consume natural resources. If used materials are not recycled, new products are made by extracting fresh, raw material from the Earth, through mining and forestry. Recycling helps conserve important raw materials and protects natural habitats for the future.
2. It saves energy.
Using recycled materials in the manufacturing process uses considerably less energy than that required for producing new products from raw materials - even when comparing all associated costs including transport etc. Plus there are extra energy savings because more energy is required to extract, refine, transport and process raw materials ready for industry compared with providing industry-ready materials.
3. Recycling helps protect the environment.
Recycling reduces the need for extracting, refining and processing raw materials all of which create substantial air and water pollution. As recycling saves energy it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which helps to tackle climate change.
4. Recycling reduces landfill.
When we recycle, recyclable materials are reprocessed into new products, and as a result the amount of rubbish sent to landfill sites reduces.
Recycling in Europe
The EU wants to promote the prevention of waste and the re-use of products as much as possible. If this is not possible it prefers recycling (including composting), followed by using waste to generate energy.
Waste management in Europe has improved considerably in the last few years. The recycling rates and use of recycled materials in the in the European Union are steadily growing. Overall, the EU recycled around 55% of all waste excluding major mineral waste in 2016 (compared with 53% in 2010). The growth of recycling is being driven by increasing demand for recyclables, as booming economies push up the price of materials. Another driver has been the EU Waste Directives which have created obligations to recycle or recover increasing percentages of waste, and discourage landfilling.
In September 2018, the European Commission released a report showing half of the European Union member countries are at risk of missing their 2020 recycling targets. Some good news is that the EU has compiled some advice for every individual country. It is hoped these proposed changes may help boost recycling rates just in time.
Based on the foregoing, recycling is good for the environment, in the sense that, we are using old and waste products which are of no use and then converting them back to the same new products. Recycling serves two purposes: first, it avoids landfills and helps in reducing air and water pollution and, secondly, valuable material like aluminum cans and plastic and glass are reused in other forms and not wasted. Thus, recycling is very important in today’s world if we want to leave this planet for our future generations!