What is it?
Recycling is the processing of used or unwanted goods to provide the raw material to make new ones. Recycling prevents useful material resources being wasted, reduces the use of raw materials and energy and as a result cuts greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to Climate Change. Recycling is a key concept of modern waste management and is the third stage of the waste hierarchy after reduce and reuse.
Recycling involves three steps:
If all these three steps are followed, then we are 'closing the recycling loop', hence the recycling symbol- the mobius loop- with its three arrows.
Recycling also means that we avoid many of the additional environmental impacts associated with extracting the new resources, and the subsequent manufacturing and distribution of the goods produced. The mining, quarrying and logging to get resources can be environmentally destructive, damaging the natural environment and local wildlife habitats. The processing and transportation activities also add to the environmental impact. Recycling often reduces energy use and causes less pollution than using raw materials.
Recycling is a practical and positive step, which we can all take to help the environment. It encourages us to think about the waste we produce and take responsibility for what happens to it. Perhaps this is the greatest advantage of recycling, as it raises our awareness, which is the first step towards changing the way we deal with any problem.
However recycling is not just about separating waste for collection. Recycling is about creating new materials from old and these materials have to compete against virgin raw materials. As a result, markets for recyclables fluctuate a great deal, being influenced by the supply and demand for both virgin and recycled materials. We can all play an even more important role by making sure we 'buy recycled', to close the recycling loop.