Recycling is the process of reusing waste materials that would otherwise be sent to a landfill to regenerate useful materials. It is important because recycling reduces the amount of potentially useful materials that accumulate in landfills, and reduces the need for products to be generated from raw materials. Recycling as part of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle chain should be the last step after first reducing the amount of waste produced, and reusing anything that it is possible to reuse. This, in turn, reduces energy usage, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and is beneficial for the environment.
Recycling is possible for a surprising number of materials including plastic, rubber, electronics, glass, paper and metal. In addition, the recycling of organic waste including garden and food waste is important and can even be recycled at home, unlike the recycling of other materials.
It is often thought that the recycling of a material generates more of the same material – i.e., plastic bottles are recycled into plastic bottles. However, recycling in this way is often very expensive and can sometimes be more energy intensive than making the products from the raw materials, which obviously defeats the object of recycling. Instead, materials may be recycled to form new products.
Over the last few years, with increased concerns about climate change there has been an increase in government legislation to encourage recycling. One way that recycling has been encouraged is by introducing a minimum amount of recycled material that must be used in a new product. Alternatively, companies may be permitted to meet recycling targets, if it is not possible for a product to adhere to the minimum, by paying fees to offset their lack of contribution to recycling aims. Other methods that governments may employ involve giving tax breaks and benefits to companies that are dedicated to recycling or making recycling part of their business plan.