Impacts of Recycling on the Environment

By Akieva Powell, winner of the Junior Recycling Competition

“Reuse, Reduce and Recycle” is a common idea expressed by adults and children alike. What does it mean to recycle? Recycling is the action or process of converting waste into reusable material (Oxford English Dictionary). It’s an opportunity to extend the life of an item by repurposing it. Through recycling, we can conserve both renewable and non-renewable resources, prevent various types of pollution, and reduce the amount of unnecessary waste deposited in landfills. This is critical for the preservation of the environment.

Though most of the Earth’s natural resources are self-replenishing and seem infinite, most are limited. To preserve what is left, it is imperative that we recycle. The negative effects of unsustainable land use have and will continue to result in deforestation and soil erosion within the environment unless greater attention is given to recycling and thus ensuring that the constant depletion of natural resources is halted. Similarly, recycling would result in a reduction in the amount of iron ore, limestone, and coal that would have to be extracted from the earth. Recycling lessens the resources, money, and effort needed to produce high-demand materials such as paper and steel, which aids in the conservation of natural resources.

Sustainable world concept. 3D computer-generated image.

Recycling is steering us in the direction of a less polluted future. The proper disposal of solid waste such as plastic bottles and other non-biodegradable materials would help to restore our polluted water sources. Research has shown that recycling one plastic bottle reduces air pollution by 20% and water pollution by 50%, figures which are minuscule when compared to the processes that are undertaken to make a single bottle. Products manufactured from recycled material emit fewer pollutants and as such, have a less deleterious effect on the environment. Recycling also eliminates land pollution caused by the extraction and processing of raw materials. Using recovered materials generates less solid waste and thereby reduces pollution. When magnified this would reap great benefits on a larger scale. 

Landfills have proven useful, but not efficient, in the disposal of waste material. In fact, they have negatively affected the environment, due to their poor design, location, and maintenance. Several individuals use them for the disposal of non-biodegradable waste which takes years to disintegrate, wreaking havoc on the environment in the process.  The result? Bi-products such as foul-smelling methane gas which adds to global warming. The problems attached to not recycling become more severe each day. Added to this are the many materials such as glass that occupy space in these landfills. Then there is the electronic waste, which not only occupies space, due to its inability to degrade but introduces toxic materials into the environment. Many landfills are unable to handle the toxic substances emitted from ‘techno trash’. Thus, by recycling mobile devices, manufacturers can reuse growingly rare metals found as well as prevent toxins from escaping into our environment.

The act of recycling helps the environment in several ways. These include, but are not limited to, the conservation of the world’s natural resources and the prevention of air, water, and land pollution. Recycling also aids in the removal of excess, non-biodegradable materials from landfills. It is an efficient means of resource recovery, as well as a means of reducing spending and increasing income while benefiting the environment.

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