Recycling disposable plastics, paper, metals, and glass has been around for decades because people have realized that recycling is fantastic for the environment.
That said, how does recycling help reduce pollution? You might think that having less garbage on the side of the road is a huge benefit. However, that’s only a small part of the equation.
Extracting, processing, and transporting raw materials is extraordinarily wasteful and detrimental. While recycling also consumes energy and resources, it’s nothing like making everything from scratch.
Before we talk about how recycling reduces pollution, there are interesting statistics to note.
Did you know that recycling steel reduces 97% of waste caused by mining raw materials? It also reduces 76% of water pollution and 86% of air pollution caused by mining raw materials.
Recycling is always better than using raw materials. To help preserve the environment, you should be adhering to the three R principle: reduce, reuse, and recycle. This article looks at recycling and the reduction of pollution.
How Does Recycling Reduce Pollution?
There are six ways recycling helps reduce pollution, and we want to look at them. To do this, we will compare what it means to use raw materials versus recycling.
1. Reducing the Extraction of Raw Materials
If goods are made of raw materials, they first need to be extracted, whether we are talking about plastic, wooden materials, paper, glass, etc.
The extraction of these raw materials causes pollution. For instance, if we are talking about making plastic, oil is involved; drilling rigs and refineries are built to extract oil from the ground. Large tracts of land are destroyed to remove and refine oil.
Moreover, the extraction process itself is energy-intensive and wastes resources. Electricity, fossil fuels, and water are used to extract these things from the ground.
This is also the case when using sand to create glass or cutting down trees to make paper and wood products. The extraction processes are bad for the environment in many ways.
Moreover, these extraction sites are usually uninhabitable once the resources have been removed because of pollution created through the extraction process. For example, water used to extract oil from the ground is heavily polluted, and this is released back into the environment, causing significant environmental damage.
2. Reducing the Need to Process Raw Materials
We must also think about processing these raw materials into usable goods because the production process is wasteful. For example, refining oil to the point where it’s turned into plastic requires many resources such as water and electricity.
This is also true if we turn trees into paper or wooden products or sand into glass. It is highly wasteful to take raw materials and process and refine them into sellable goods.
Production plants use large amounts of electricity, which means that fossil fuels are burned. These production facilities pollute the air and release heavily polluted water back into the environment, which has detrimental impacts on the environment, animals, plant life, and on us humans. Every step to turn raw materials into usable goods is wasteful and pollutes the environment.
3. Reducing Transportation Requirements
Next, we must consider transportation, which occurs at many manufacturing process steps. First, you need to deliver vehicles and equipment to the extraction sites to take those materials out of the ground and then transport those materials to the production facilities.
Production facilities transport their materials into warehouses for storage. Finally, the goods are transported to retail outlets where they are sold. As you can see, transportation is involved in nearly every step of turning raw materials into sellable goods.
Trains, trucks, boats, or anything else, pollute as well. For the most part, these vehicles use fossil fuels as their power source, and burning fossil fuels is highly detrimental to the environment. In addition, when vehicles burn these fossil fuels, it pollutes the air. Just think about how much fuel a cargo ship or a large airplane uses in a single trip.
4. Reducing the Amount of Waste in Landfills
In addition, much of that waste ends up in landfills when you throw those products away. In themselves, landfills take up space that could be used for better purposes. This is the case whether we discuss preserving natural land or using that space for construction purposes.
However, the more significant issue is that the materials in landfills don’t just stay in those landfills. All that garbage releases various toxic chemicals into the ground below. This is known as leaching.
When that garbage is rained on, the water mixes with the chemicals and runs into the ground, polluting our groundwater. This means we can’t drink that water without thoroughly processing and cleaning it; the process also wastes a lot of energy.
In addition, polluted water is terrible for any animals and plants that come in contact with it. Also, remember that landfills must be maintained. That garbage is constantly turned over, buried, and moved around. The vehicles required to perform these tasks also use fossil fuels.
5. Less Energy Wasted Overall
So, everything we have talked about has to do with energy, and we want to emphasize that extracting, processing, and transporting raw materials waste energy. This is even the case when it comes to disposing of used goods.
When you save energy, you save the environment. Using energy, whether it comes from fossil fuels or other sources, in itself also pollutes the environment; if you use less energy, there’s less pollution
6. Preserving Natural Habitats
People usually don’t think about the preservation of natural habitats. Recycling in itself can preserve natural habitats because you don’t have to destroy vast swathes of land to mine for oil. You don’t destroy forests to create paper and wooden products.
Our forests are required to absorb carbon dioxide. The more trees we cut down, the fewer trees are available to decrease the carbon dioxide in our air. At the same time, the more vehicles and refining processes we use, the more we pollute the environment.
Not only are we reducing our world’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide, but we’re also creating it at the same time. For example, recycling helps reduce the need to mine and extract raw materials.
The Bottom Line
Recycling uses less energy and wastes fewer resources than making goods of raw materials. This is true for every single step of the production process. So if you want to help save the environment, do your part and start recycling.