Recycling is the process of turning materials into new items. Recycling is part of the waste management hierarchy which provides a structure for minimising how much waste ends up in landfill sites.
Recycling often involves collecting used items and processing them to clean and separate the component materials. The separate materials can then be used for a whole range of purposes: plastic bottles can come back to life as clothing; aluminium cans turn up in aeroplane parts; paper yoghurt pots can transform into toothbrushes.
This National Recycling Week (25 September – 1 October), we want to tell you why we believe passionately that recycling is worth it.
Manufacturing new items uses a large amount of energy. Recycling requires much less. For example, forming new aluminium from bauxite ore needs much more energy than creating items from aluminium that has already been made. Every tonne of aluminium that we recycle saves 210kWh of electricity and 2.5 million BTUs (British Thermal Units) of energy. Some recycled materials, such as paper, are even more energy efficient. For every tonne of paper we recycle, we save 1845kWh hours of electricity and 24 million BTUs of energy.
Producing energy creates pollutants that usually end up in our atmosphere in the form of CO2 and other – sometimes more toxic – gases that contribute to global warming. Because recycling uses less energy than making new materials, it also means less pollution is produced. For example, by recycling one tonne of paper instead of making new paper, we prevent 12kg of pollutants entering the atmosphere.
Protect our environment
Recycling materials reduces the likelihood that they will end up in our environment where they cause harm. There are 9 billion tonnes of plastic in the world and more than 8 million tonnes of it ends up in our oceans every year. Plastic litter not only looks unsightly, but it can harm – and even kill – wildlife when it is swallowed or creatures become trapped. Items such as bottles, fishing nets and even the micro beads in your face wash can all end up in the sea.
By collecting our waste for recycling, we can help to ensure that is it handled responsibly and not allowed to make its way into our environment.
Prolong scarce resources
Many of the materials we use in manufacturing are from natural sources and so are in limited supply. Raw materials such as oil and metal ores will not last forever. One day they will run out because nature cannot form them as fast as we use them.
Recycling makes use of materials that have already been manufactured, which greatly reduces our reliance on these precious resources. For example, every tonne of recycled plastic saves 4 barrels of oil compared to manufacturing new plastics. Oil and other fossil fuels are also used to produce energy. Since recycling uses less energy than making new materials, it saves even more natural resources.
Preserve our planet
All of the benefits that recycling offers are crucial to help preserve our environment. By prolonging the availability of natural resources, reducing pollution and protecting wildlife, we can preserve our planet for future generations.
If we all do our little bit to recycle the things we use, we can make a big collective difference. We hope you agree that recycling is the right thing to do – and it’s worth it.