Advantages and Disadvantages of Recycling

Many of us feel overwhelmed by the term ‘recycling.’ Recycling is a form of waste management that involves converting waste and other used materials into reusable products. 

Recycling helps to reduce energy usage, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce air pollution and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal and also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. 

Before taking the bold step of recycling, it is crucial to understand the good and bad involved in this process. Some of the wastes that can be recycled include:

Plastic: It includes water bottles, plastic bags, plastic wrappers and rubber bags.

Glass: Glass products that can be recycled include wine and beer bottles and broken glasses.

Paper: Such as magazines, newspapers, books, envelopes and cardboard boxes.

Metals: Like empty tomato, soda and fruit cans.

Other waste products: Those products that can be recycled include textiles, tires, and electronics.

The Recycling Process

Collection of waste materials and processing

Waste materials are collected through drop-off centers, curbside collection, deposit or refund programs. The waste materials are then transported to a materials recovery facility or recycling centers where they are sorted out, cleaned and processed into ideal materials for manufacturing. 

The recyclable waste materials can be bought and sold the same way raw material would be. The prices fluctuate depending on demand and supply throughout the country.

 Manufacturing

Manufacturing is where the processed waste materials are converted into useful products. Many products in the modern day are manufactured using recycled waste materials.

Common products manufactured using waste materials include paper towels, newspapers, steel cans, soft drink containers made of plastic glass and aluminum and plastic laundry detergents.

Dissemination of manufactured products to the market

The finished recycled product is then made available on the market. You can be part of waste reduction campaigns by purchasing products made from recycled materials. It’s pretty easy to pinpoint products of recyclable material because the words are plastered on the labels.

Recycling has a plethora of advantages to humans and environments. Surprisingly, the whole process of recycling comes along with some shocking impacts unknown to a lot of people. Let’s look at some advantages and disadvantages of recycling.

Advantages of Recycling

1. Recycling minimizes pollution

All forms of pollution in the modern world emanate from industrial waste. Recycling of these industrial wastes such as plastics, cans, and chemicals go a long way towards considerably cutting back on levels of pollution because these waste products are reused rather than just being thrown away recklessly.

2. Protects the environment

The great benefit of recycling waste material is that it plays a big part in protecting Mother Nature in the most balanced way. While many trees are felled every day, recycled paper manufactured from specific trees is continually utilized to reduce deforestation.

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This classic example demonstrates that other natural resources can be recycled and made useful this way to conserve the environment.

3. Recycling minimizes global warming

It is perfectly true that recycling minimizes global warming and its grave impacts. During waste disposal, huge amounts of waste have combusted that lead to the emission of vast greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, and nitrogen, which contribute to climate change and global warming.

The recycling process involves minimal combustion and waste is transformed into reusable materials with zero or minimal harmful impact on the environment.

The whole process of processing and manufacturing products from waste materials emits few greenhouse gases because the waste recycling industries burn little fossil fuels.

4. Conserves natural resources

If the process of recycling used and old materials was not there, it means new products will be manufactured by the extraction of fresh raw materials underneath the earth through the process of mining and extraction. 

Recycling is a surefire way of conserving existing raw materials and protecting them for future use. Taking steps to conserve natural resources like minerals, water, and wood ensure sustainable and optimal use.

5. Recycling cuts down the amount of waste in landfill sites

Recycling old and used materials into reusable products enormously reduces the possibility of choking of landfill sites. This is beneficial because it helps minimize land and water pollution

Since landfills contribute mightily to environmental degradation, less landfill and waste littering ensures the less erosion of the topmost fertile soil. As wastes are saved from being dumped in the ocean, aquatic biodiversity is also maintained. 

6. Recycling ensures sustainable use of resources

Recycling guarantees that existing resources will be used sensibly and sustainably. The recycling process alleviates the possibility of discriminate use of raw materials when they are obtainable in huge supply. 

Governments these days have stepped in to encourage recycling from lower levels, for instance, schools, small-sized organizations and also at global levels.

This means that manufacturing industries can leave existing natural resources for exploitation by our children in the future without affecting current production.

7. Recycling contributes to the creation of jobs

To add to the benefits it brings to the environment, recycling opens up job opportunities. Recycling means many recycling plants will be set up, thus, leading to a long chain of collection and delivery. All these activities are performed by humans, so this will also trigger an explosion of opportunities.

8. Reduces energy consumption

A lot of energy is used to process raw materials in the course of manufacture. Recycling plays a big role in reducing energy consumption, which is vital for large-scale production, for instance, mining and refining.

Recycling also renders the whole process of production less expensive, which is a great victory for manufacturers.

9. Recycling helps to make and to save money

Electronics, old water bottles, and other trash can be sold for cash. So if you sell trash, you not only save the environment but make money in exchange.

If you buy recycled materials, they are less expensive, and you will also save money. If you reuse some of the trash that your home produces, you will make and save more money.

10. Recycling spreads environmental awareness

Recycling is just the beginning of a revolution that will help preserve the planet for our future generations. With calls for sorting waste into biodegradable, non-biodegradable and recyclable, people become aware of recycling while reducing environmental impact

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When everyone becomes accustomed to recycling, people will be more eco-conscious and will participate in more eco-friendly activities.

11. Recycling can reduce allied activities needed for the production of fresh products

Industries are the biggest producers of greenhouse gases and pollution. If the need for fresh materials is lessened due to recycling, there will be a lesser need for allied activities that usually make huge environmental impacts like mining and transportation.

12. Recycling of organic matter 

Recycling of organic matter leads to the generation of valuable compost, which serves as plant fertilizer. “Even when all actions have been taken to use your wasted food, certain inedible parts will still remain and can be turned into compost to feed and nourish the soil,” the EPA says with regards to food waste scraps and yard waste. “Composting these wastes creates a product that can be used to help improve soils, grow the next generation of crops, and improve water quality.”

13. Innovations drive scientific advancements

Scientific advances are producing less natural resource-intensive products making it easier to recycle numerous products. New sorting technologies can identify grade and type of plastic, automatically speeding up the process of the work to reduce landfill content. 

A new polymer can be added to both polyethylene and polypropylene that creates a tough new plastic to recycle the second time easily. 

Disadvantages of Recycling

1. High upfront capital costs

Recycling is not always cost-effective. Building up a new waste recycling unit takes up a lot of capital. The accompanying costs include buying different kinds of utility vehicles, upgrading the recycling unit, waste, chemical disposal and schooling the locals by initiating useful programs and seminars.

2. Recycling sites are always unhygienic, unsafe and unsightly

Go to any waste recycling site, and you will almost always stumble upon unhygienic, unhealthy and unsightly conditions. Locations, where every manner of waste is piled, provides a nice ground for the formation of debris and the spread of infectious diseases. The harmful chemicals from these wastes can also be dangerous.

On top of causing massive pollution, the whole recycling process poses health risks for dedicated individuals responsible for recycling these waste products. Also, if such waste products come into contact with water, it results in the formation of leachate that ends up polluting water bodies, not to mention drinking water.

3. Products from recycled waste may not be durable

The quality of products manufactured from recycled waste may not be at par regarding quality. These kinds of products are almost always made of trashed waste material collected from mountains of other waste materials that have been overly utilized and fragile. This makes products of recycled waste less durable and low-priced.

Also, there is no assurance that high-quality products will be obtained from waste recycling if input raw material is of an inferior nature. Some items earmarked for recycling are ultimately subjected to combustion or landfill dumping due to substandard quality.

4. Recycling might not be inexpensive

Sometimes, recycling waste may not be less costly as most people think. At times, a need arises to establish another waste recycling unit for processing.

This will only drive up the costs related to setting up the new unit or upgrading the processing facility, collection of waste materials, acquiring different utility vehicles, educating residents by organizing seminars and other programs etc.

5. Recycling is not widespread on large scale

Although recycling plays a bigger role in reducing the rate of pollution, the process has not been widely embraced and developed. Unfortunately, recycling still is just a small part of long-term success. 

Recycling is mostly common in schools and homes and has not hit a bigger milestone; for example, it has not been wholly used at local industries or holistically at a global stage. Conservation of trees at school is incomparable to the massive destruction of trees and oil spills happening at industrial levels.

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6. More energy consumption and pollution

Recycling tons of garbage will require waste to be transported, sorted, cleaned and processed in separate factories, all of which need energy and may result in by-products that can pollute soil, air or water.

Even vehicles that are employed to pick up recyclable products will also increase air pollution by releasing toxins that are all airborne.

7. Result in pollutants

When waste materials break down, pollutants, such as chemical stews, harm the environment. Toxins and impurities from the original material, such as lead paint or spray cans, could pass through the recycling into the recycled product. 

It could take years to realize that the items we have been using are contaminated. For example, recycled steel used in buildings in Taiwan has caused gamma radiation poisoning for the past 12 years.

8. Increased processing cost and low-quality jobs

Although recycling is eco-friendly, it is often considered cost-inefficient. Recycling costs can go thrice as much as the cost of dumping garbage in landfills. The process is also labor-intensive. 

The manpower requirement is high in recycling jobs, but the kind of work involved can lead to low morale and poor quality of life, and the pay is also low. The bleaching process can expose workers to harsh conditions that can damage health.

9. Stricter and more stringent implementation required

When the recycling process is not carried on properly, it can have an adverse effect on health and the environment. The debris and toxic waste can contaminate land, air and the environment if waste is improperly handled.

When recycling companies abandon dump sites, waste left lying around can also have an environmental effect. This requires more stringent implementation. 

10. Recycling is still ineffective

As discussed above, recycling results in more pollution, higher energy consumption, and cost-inefficiency, and thus becomes less effective. Moreover, recycling still fails to meet its demands. 

The demands for aluminum, for example, increase about 10% every year, but the amount of recycled aluminum falls short, making aluminum mining still necessary.

The number of soda cans that need to be recycled is much more than facilities can process. In America alone, the average individual drinks 2.5 can per day, amounting to around 778 million cans that need to be recycled.

11. Methane is a GHG 

As methane is a greenhouse gas, this produced during recycling, if allowed to seep out, can lead to global warming and ozone depletion.

12. Revenue loss

Governments providing tax subsidies to recycling plants bears annually billions of dollars revenue loss.

After juggling the advantages and disadvantages of recycling, an individual can wisely take significant steps involved in the recycling process. Knowing the effects of recycling is vital to a larger degree that, if carried out effectively, can bring immeasurable benefits to the environment and humans.

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