Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Understanding Recycling

Recycling is one of the easiest ways in which we can reduce our impact on the earth(carbon foot print). It makes sense on multiple counts like

1. Saves money - Throwing trash away is expensive. First, we need a place to put our garbage (a landfill) and then we need to pay to store it there forever.

2. Saves energy - Recycled materials compared to virgin materials saves a lot of energy, for example, it takes 95% less energy to make an aluminum can from recycled aluminum than it does from virgin aluminum.

3. Prevents pollution - Recycling also reduces climate change emissions from incinerators and landfills. (According to the EPA, recycling provides an annual benefit of 49.7 million metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions reduced, comparable to removing 39.4 million passenger cars from the road each year.). Also by using recycled materials, the manufacturer creates fewer greenhouse gases.

4. Prevents resource destruction - Recycling enables returning back discarded products to manufacturers for use in new products which prevents the pollution and destruction that occurs when virgin materials—like trees and precious metals—are extracted
from the earth.

5. Creates jobs - For every one job at a landfill, there are ten jobs in recycling processing and 25 jobs in recycling-based manufacturers. The recycling industry employs more workers than the auto industry.

6. Creates a just and sustainable society - It is estimated that we are currently consuming at a rate of 123%, using 23% more resources than the Earth can sustain. This means we are jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. And as populations continue to increase and seek the affluence and consumerism of the Western culture, there will be increasing conflict over our limited supply of resources, everything from precious metals to clean water.

Like many of you I recycle diligently and hope the stuff I put in the blue bin is creating value and not going waste. That said the recycling business model always raised many questions. I was always curious to understand the complete recycling process. How bottles, cans, newspapers, egg cartons and junk mail are separated and turned into new materials and products. And how in spite of incurring expenditure in collecting, transporting and sorting they still managed to make profits.

The following video helps to find the answer to many questions related to recycling.

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