Recycling is the process in which used or abandoned materials from our everyday waste is converted into new products. Items that can be recycled include; glass, paper, plastics and various metals. The process of recycling involves waste segregation after collection, processing the recyclable waste and finally manufacturing products from the waste thus processed.
Need for Recycling
Manufacturing products involves obtaining raw materials from various sources. Raw materials may be from forests or mines. They are then transported to the place of manufacture usually by land or sea, which is an energy consuming process. Procurement of raw materials and their transporting causes pollution in addition to using up scarce resources like trees and fossil fuels.
All this, in turn, causes global warming by the release of gases and eroding the ozone layer which protects the earth from harmful radiation from the sun. Global warming is blamed for climate change and its disastrous consequences. Some of these are unseasonal rainfall or droughts causing flooding and famine respectively. Waste is commonly disposed off by burying it in landfills or having them incinerated. The former uses up vast tracts of land and can contaminate ground water, while the latter contributes to global warming.
Merits of Recycling
Recycling waste reduces the demand on raw materials. It also reduces waste disposal by landfill or by incineration, hence helps reduce pollution and global warming. Recycling is seen as highly beneficial as it reduces the amount of domestic waste which is sent to landfills and incinerators pollute the environment. It is also a method of sustainable development where we can help sustain the environment for future generations.
Recycling also prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to collect raw materials. If used materials are not recycled then new products are made through the use of fresh raw materials through methods such as mining and forestry. Hence recycling help in the conservation of natural habitats. Recycling also saves energy as energy is required to extract raw materials as well as refine, transport and construct.
Countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom have implemented highly efficient recycling projects which have been implemented by governmental organizations. Countries as such have implemented recycling disposals at various designations throughout the country. Places such as, malls, towns, restaurants have all been equipped with color coded bins responsible for the disposal of various materials. Countries such as the United Kingdom have implemented source segregation of household waste under the supervision and directions of municipal authorities. Residents and businesses must separate their garbage and put them into separate bags for collection. Often a fine is passed if this is not obeyed.
The type of material accepted for recycling varies by city and country. Each city and country has different recycling programs in place that can handle the various types of recyclable materials. For example, aluminum can is the most recycled consumer product in the world. Each year, the aluminum industry pays out more than US$800 million for empty aluminum cans.
Recycling aluminium cans is a closed-loop process since used beverage cans that are recycled are primarily used to make beverage cans. Recycled aluminium cans are used again for the production of new cans or for the production of other valuable aluminium products such as engine blocks, building facades or bicycles. In Europe about 50% of all semi-fabricated aluminium used for the production of new beverage cans and other aluminium packaging products comes from recycled aluminium.
Among plastics, polyethlene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles have high recyclability and are an integral part of most curbside and drop-off recycling programs. Recycled PET and HDPE have many uses and well-established markets. The growth of bottle recycling has been facilitated by the development of processing technologies that increase product purities and reduce operational costs.