Recycling has many benefits – it conserves finite natural resources and reduces the amount of waste that is buried or burnt. One of the most valuable benefits of recycling is the savings in energy and reduction in greenhouse gases and pollution that result when scrap materials are substituted for virgin metals. Recycling aluminium, for example, can reduce energy consumption by as much as 95%, for plastics this is around 70%, 60% for steel, 40% for paper and 30% for glass. Recycling also reduces emissions of pollutants that can cause smog, acid rain and the contamination of waterways.
But as well as trying to recycle more, it is also important to try to recycle better. As technologies and materials evolve, there is room for improvement and cause for optimism but the positives of recycling don’t outweigh the need to “precycle” – the prevention of creation of waste.