Recycling is the process by which unwanted materials are processed into new and useful products. The practice of recycling products has been with humanity since time immemorial and is recorded in the ancient works of Plato that date back to 400BC (Harrison, 2008). The pre-industrial times have evidence of recycling of precious materials such as bronze and silver that were melted down and molded for other applications. The major driving factor behind recycling during the pre-industrial times was the scarcity of fresh materials. Industrialization not only availed fresh materials but also increased demand for scrap metals. By the advent of the First World War, peddlers took advantage of the market forces to recycle materials back into industrial production.
The specific purpose of this paper is to deeply analyze all aspects of recycling and use this as a platform to persuade the masses to join recycling efforts. Towards this, a cocktail of benefits stands to be gained by the development of this paper in effectively persuading people to embrace recycling.
Understanding aspects of recycling alone do not yield expected benefits without a “bundle” which includes cultural changes in regards to recycling. Research suggests that the adoption of standardized frameworks can help communities align their practices better towards recycling practices. In this paper, all aspects of recycling with major emphasis on the advantages of recycling were studied and analyzed in-depth to ascertain whether recycling would help eliminate the major environmental and economic obstacles. Towards this, the potential benefits and disadvantages of having recycling entrenched within our society were analyzed in depth. The research approach taken in the paper was based around theory development on the research topic and involved a review and synthesis of a range of primary industry cases, practical approaches, and partial solutions as availed in literature from available articles.
Statistics on recycling are in the public domain. Statistics in recycling alone can lure people into supporting the efforts in recycling waste products. The benefits of recycling have prompted nations all over the world to embrace it to meet their ever-rising energy needs and find a viable solution to the dwindling natural resources. According to Harrison (2008), recycling statistics in the United States reveal that “each person produces 4.6 lbs of trash per day in the United States and there is about 100% increase in the total recycling in the United States during the past decade.” In addition to the above, “82 million tons of materials are recycled in the United States, 53.4 % of all paper products are being recycled, and the United States recycles about 32% of its waste today” (Harrison, 2008). The recycling industry is expected to increase in diversity of products recycled and volumes of recycled products.
It s envisaged that developing countries have joined the bracket of recycling economies due to increases in the prices of fresh materials that have been precipitated by dwindling natural deposits. One question remains pivotal in the analysis of the above statistics; what is the reason behind the recycling of such enormous amounts of materials? The answers to this question are not particularly hard to discern. First, the current age is faced with an acute increase in demand for energy to drive the current industrial age. This huge demand has put a strain on available natural resources such as iron ore and oil. Humanity has no option but to explore sustainable means of meeting its energy needs. Second, the benefits of recycling appeal to most economies because of the adverse effects of the increases in the costs of living in the recent past.
Benefits of Recycling
Available works of literature and articles point to the fact that there are enormous gains to be realized by the entire humanity through the promotion of the recycling industry. This is because of the demonstrated benefits of recycling to the environment and economy. In the light of environmental conservation, “recycling conserves natural resources such as minerals, wood, and water because of the processing of already used materials that do not demand new materials” (Frank, 1997). Furthermore, the process of recycling produces fewer greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in comparison to the industrial manufacture of new products. This has been suggested as a viable solution to the problem of global warming that has been classified as one of the major threats to humanity.
The recycling paper in the United States alone saves not only the atmosphere because of reduced pollution but also the amount of water used in the manufacturing process. According to Zimring (2005), “in the United States, 56 % of the paper used was recovered for recycling during the last year; this paper when recycled produces almost 74% less pollution than making new paper and almost 50 % less water is required for this purpose.” This is because the more we involve ourselves in recycling efforts, the more we stand to reap from the environment. “Some of the gifts that Mother Earth will bestow upon us are freshwater, clean air, healthy wildlife, litter-free shorelines, and a thriving and abundant plant life – sounds like a good deal” (OTONetworks, 2009).
The environmental benefits that come along as a result of recycling also include the prevention of the destruction of natural habitats. The entire humanity stands to gain by the reduction in the number of trees cut every year by simply recycling used paper. In addition to the above, recycling reduces the levels of soil erosion directly associated with cutting down of natural habitats and thus reduces the amount of land available for cultivation. This has been pointed to as one of the major aggravating factors of food security in the entire globe. Last, recycling helps in the reuse of large volumes of waste materials that would have been deposited inland areas that could be put to better use. Richard (2002) elucidates this point by succinctly stating that “recycling programs keep 70 tons of waste from being deposited into landfills every year.”
The advantages of recycling on economic from include the thousands of job opportunities economies generate from recycling efforts. In the United States alone, the recycling industry job opportunity has surpassed the 1million mark. According to Flanchetti (2009), “in the United States alone the recycling effort is responsible for almost 1.1 million jobs and that number is expected to rise since initiatives are in place to assist others in getting behind the recycling movement.” This issue is buttressed by John (1996) in stating that “recycling centers create 4 jobs for every 1 job in the waste disposal industry.” Australia job market has recorded improvement because of concerted efforts on the recycling industries. Furthermore, “recycling is reportedly creating $37 million in salaries annually as both the private sector and the public sector continue creating more and more jobs in this field” (Richard, 2002). In addition to the above, thousands of families in the developing world earn their household income by turning in recyclable materials to industries. Last, recycling assists in the reduction in the costs involved in manufacturing new products which has reduced the overall costs in the energy involved in the manufacturing of products.
Disadvantages of Recycling
Whereas a lot of support has been demonstrated towards the promotion of the recycling industry because of the number of benefits it has drawn, critics argue that these benefits are not as clear as they are projected. First, most of the traditionally manufactured products were not designed for recycling, and as such, the recycling process would be expensive than the cost of manufacturing a new product. This led to the laying down of the innovative idea in the book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”. The major challenge is that the proposals of William McDonough and Michael Braungart have not been fully adopted by most manufacturing companies. These companies have designed their materials along with the market demands.
Critics argue that the kind of jobs created by the recycling industry generates jobs that involve working in terrible conditions and attract very poor wages. The poor working conditions have been pointed to as the major causes of heart and breathing complications that inflate the management costs of these diseases especially in areas with no environmental regulations. Other critics also argue that whereas recycling saves trees; the reverse happens. This point is well illustrated by Richard (2002) in quoting Economist Steven Landsburg who intones that “paper companies have incentives to replenish the forests they own, large demands for paper lead to large forests; conversely, reduced demand for paper leads to fewer forests.”
Recycling is not only an entrenched part of the silent culture of humanity but has also dominated major economies in the entire globe. Whereas this paper does not comprehensively discuss all aspects of recycling, it opens the lids of some important aspects of recycling. Based on the discussions of this paper, it can be confidently stated that the benefits of recycling overweigh the disadvantages. Furthermore, as opposed to the advantages, the disadvantages of recycling do not strongly challenge the benefits. It is therefore important that recycling be entrenched in the cultures of most economies in the entire world. This involves active participation in both local and worldwide recycling programs so that our planet is saved from the adverse effects of the exploitation of natural resources.