With the negative environmental effects of the Western World increasingly on everyones radar we are all looking for ways to do our bit. But while we are all aware we should recycle more, do we actually know why? Is there any benefit to us as individuals? And how does it help the environment?
This post covers a few environmental facts, but primarily focuses on the benefits of recycling to hopefully give you food for thought the next time you throw away that empty plastic bottle or drinks can.
Conserving Natural Resources
Every time you recycle it keeps valuable resources out of the waste stream. Resources such as oil, trees, water and mineral ore can all be put back into the beginning of the production cycle and save unnecessary energy wastage. For example, paper can be recycled up to seven times and aluminium, steel and glass infinitely, so it’s hugely wasteful to be using raw materials each time to manufacture new products. The process required to recycle paper also uses 90% less water than making it from scratch.
Reduces Energy Consumption
The processes required to bring the recycled materials back into a new product often uses substantially less energy than using virgin materials. With regards to energy, the paper recycling process uses 50% less energy to produce the same amount of paper when recycled than if using the raw materials.
Saves landfill space
Landfill space takes up a colossal amount of our natural environment. The waste is trucked around the countryside to one of the 300+ landfill sites we have in the UK, and then piled high. Needless to say, every item that is recycled is one less item that makes it way to the top of this pile. A large number of the landfill sites in the country are now reaching capacity and our waste is increasingly having to be shipped abroad for processing. This releases even greater amounts of CO2 and just hides the problem. Recycling is key in saving the space of our landfill sites for genuine non-recyclable items.
Decreases Pollution / Cuts out greenhouse gases
These landfill sites not only smell horrible, they look disgusting and attract flies and other scavengers. But looking past the superficial characteristics, far more importantly, they are emitting dangerous greenhouse gases, deadly toxins and leachate. When organic waste such as food scraps and green waste is put into landfill it is generally compacted and then covered. Eventually this releases methane gas, a greenhouse gas which is 21 times more harmful than CO2. To help reduce this methane release process we can compost our green waste and leftover food scraps at home. Then use the composted material for fertiliser.