The Earth generates billions of tons of natural resources, of which water, air, oil, natural gas, coal and minerals are the most important, the foundation of our existence. But these are finite. These resources will eventually fall out at some point, which will be forever. Yet there’s a seventh resource — Recyclables, an infinite resource. The “waste” that we throw away is not literally waste. Instead, most of them can be considered as an opportunity. This concept of valuing waste-as-a-resource changes our outlook on waste and helps conserve natural resources.
March 18 has been observed as Global Recycling Day worldwide since 2018. The day is celebrated to recognise the importance of recycling in preserving the primary resources of our planet. We become more conscious of what happens to the waste we are creating. Recycling has been recognised in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Many individuals, governments and organisations are already taking direct action to support this global green agenda. Studies show that recyclables save over 700 million tonnes in CO2 emissions each year.
Recycling combats climate change!
Waste generation and global temperatures have increased massively in recent decades, and there are no signs of it slowing down. Every year, humans produce 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste, of which less than 20% is recycled each year, with huge quantities still dumped to landfill sites.
The piles of waste dumped on the landfills and in our surroundings produce greenhouse gases when they decompose. These greenhouse gasses act like a duvet covering our planet and warming it. And what is the outcome? Shrinking glaciers and reduced snow covers diminish freshwater sources and raise seawater levels. All of this can efficiently increase the number of floods, endangering both coastal and sea areas. Annual reports estimate that the Earth might not live to see the next decade if we don’t curb our litter.
Recycling helps save energy!
Recycling conserves energy by lowering or preventing the need to create materials from the ground up. Collecting, moving, and refining the natural materials needed for paper, metal, plastic, and other scratch items may be time-consuming and costly. Manufacturers can produce the same items with less energy and expenditure by employing recycled materials instead of new natural resources. Because recycled materials have already been purified and processed, production is substantially less energy-intensive the second time around. New items made from recycled materials consume up to 30% less energy when firms don’t have to process the raw materials from the beginning.
Recycling supports the local economy!
Waste management indeed costs money. Creating an infrastructure for collecting, sorting, and recycling is costly, but recycling can generate revenues and create jobs once in place. It helps strengthen our economy. The waste items are collected by trucks to a transfer station and then sent to a landfill or a recycling unit. The collection and the hauling process is the same for both cases. But their economic impacts are different. Recyclables have a market value, which offsets processing costs into marketable products. Manufacturers can repurpose them into new products and sell them to consumers, maintaining or creating jobs in manufacturing and retail. Over 1.6 million people are employed worldwide in the recycling industry. They include businesses involved with recycling collection and processing, salvage, manufacturing, retail, education and composting. The more recycling, the more these businesses can grow and contribute to our local economy. Conversely, once the waste is buried in a landfill, it’s there forever, and any value it may have had is lost.
The 3Rs stands for:
- Reduce: Reduction of waste generation-Don’t be wasteful. Reduce garbage.
2. Reuse: Reuse of products and parts-Use things again and again.
3. Recycle: Use of recycled resources-Recycle resources for reuse.
What can you do?
Waste is an inevitable by-product of humans. But small steps are essential in making the change. Start with replacing single-use items with durable materials. Avoid creating unnecessary waste by reducing consumption by repairing and reusing products. Make the right recycling friendly purchase decisions — lower the amount of waste piling up in landfills by separating and recycling the waste we create. Organic materials can be recycled to produce biomass and non-chemical fertilisers. The waste that remains would be burnt to create energy. Hence less waste or nothing at all is sent to landfills.
Recycling is important because it minimises pollution, removes the need for new raw materials, helps conserve energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, saves a lot of money, reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, and enables products to be used to their maximum capacity. Recycling is beneficial for the environment since we use old and trash materials that are no longer useful and then recycle them into new ones. We are helping reduce air and water pollution by conserving resources and sending less rubbish to landfills. There is no doubt recycling is at the front in the war to save the future of our planet and humanity.
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