In the time it takes to read this article, six Europeans will die prematurely from causes associated with pollution.
This startling statistic from BBC News shows the urgency with which our generation should be taking climate change. In order for humankind to survive, we are in desperate need of a healthy planet.
The best of our researchers and scientists are now turning their eyes towards recycling. This method of waste management is not new, but the total environmental impact of recycling is still being uncovered.
So how does recycling have a positive impact? Read on to see what you can do to protect the earth.
What is Recycling?
Before we jump into the results of recycling we need a blanket definition to build upon.
To put it simply, recycling is the breaking down of materials to create other sustainable materials. Cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminium cans, or textiles are compressed in balers like these then shipped to recycling facilities.
Recycling could also be synonymous with ‘upcycling’, where an object is reused in other ways instead of broken down. Upcycling is typically done on a personal level instead of at a manufacturer or plant.
The three most popular categories of recycled materials are metal, glass, and paper. There are dozens of possible subcategories under these materials so it is important to understand the rules of recycling. Check out this comprehensive list of recycling tips to make sure you’re on track!
Let’s discover why recycling is so crucial right now and if it really has a positive impact.
What is the Environmental Impact of Recycling?
We can see the clear need for some sort of change by the shocking mortality rate within Europe. Around 18% of deaths in Romania can be directly linked to poor environmental conditions.
Dumps in the UK are expected to reach full capacity in only nine years, according to Nick Mann of the British Local Government Association. Grecians have recycled only about 1% of their total plastic consumption.
While many European nations struggle with recycling, there are countries that excel. Germany has been a leader in this field for years. Germans send less than a quarter of their trash to landfills. This hopeful statistic is made possible by the steps taken at a national level to recycle.
Germany introduced seven colour-coded bins for recycling that can be found in public areas to recycle everything from green glass to food waste. Read more about Germany’s state-of-the-art practices here.
The world takes notice.
Countries like Belgium, Sweden, and Luxembourg have followed suit and incorporated many of the practices that Germany set in place. Their recycling is up and landfills are down.
All of this is to say that it is possible to recycle at a nationwide level – and we’ll have to. Without the help of everyone, scientists fear we may not see the total whirlwind of change needed to save our planet.
Recycling is only one area of environmental conservation but its impact can is monumental.
Environmental Impacts of Recycling Metal
The process of creating a metal like iron or aluminium from scratch involves two complex steps.
Metallic ore deposits are first extracted from the earth. Then, the metal is separated from the waste materials like rock and sand.
Pulling virgin metals from the earth would likely spell financial ruin for your business. Not only does the excavation have hefty financial costs but these metals are considered nonrenewable fossil fuels.
This means that when we’re out, we’re out. That’s it.
When metal is discarded it can take thousands of years to break down. This only contributes to the perpetuation of growing landfills, and the earth simply can’t afford it.
Metal releases harmful toxins into the soil and air as it decomposes making the surrounding land infertile. You can learn more about the environmental harm of degrading metal here.
Focusing too long on the bleak future without recycling can be a little draining, right? Luckily, there’s no limit to how often metals can be recycled. If every business did their part we could rid landfills of metal entirely.
A popular concern for using recycled metals is that the breaking down and rebuilding process compromises their structural integrity. There’s no evidence to support this; in fact, recycled metals still surpass high industry standards every time.
Utilizing recycled metals should be the only thing on your business’s mind. The positive financial benefits are reason enough, let alone being able to say that you’re helping to end the environmental crisis.
Environmental Impacts of Recycling Plastics
According to European Parliament News, the world produced 359 million tonnes of plastic. The majority of this goes towards packaging with construction being a close second.
When plastic is manufactured or burned it releases harmful greenhouse gasses. You’ve likely heard this term thrown around when talking about climate change because these are the same gasses that are burning holes in the earth’s ozone layer.
We’re also slowly poisoning ourselves by disposing of plastics into the environment. A lot of our plastic eventually breaks down and turns into microplastics that end up in the earth’s oceans.
The water now contains so much microplastic that plankton and ocean plants are becoming contaminated. Scientists with the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) explain that losing these creatures may mean that the ocean will be unable to absorb all of the carbon dioxides that we release.
Essentially, the oceans absorb 20-40 percent of all carbon emitted by humans. The plants and fish take in the carbon and release it deep into the ocean so that it can’t be emitted back into the air.
More plastic equals less plankton, which means more carbon and greenhouse gasses in the air. We’re literally poisoning ourselves from all angles.
It’s easy to lose hope when thinking about the realities of carbon emissions, but recycling alone proves that it’s possible to reverse these consequences.
In one year, Stanford’s recycling reduced emissions equal to taking 1889 cars off the road. They saved 32,000 trees and significantly reduced the amount of waste they produced.
This is one college in one city. Imagine the total revolution we could start if businesses and individuals across the globe adopted these same policies!
Recycling and Animal Conservation
Possibly the greatest reward of recycling is watching our planet recover.
When we mine for metals and bulldoze forests for paper, we are encroaching on the habitats of millions of delicate species of wildlife.
One specific example of this comes out of Africa. Their forests and jungles are rich in a metal called coltan. Unfortunately, coltan is only found on lands where elephants, mandrills, and gorillas live.
Coltan mining has caused such significant population loss within these communities and rocked the ecosystem.
So we should stop mining, right? None of us would ever want to play a part in the death of these beautiful animals.
The startling reality is that we are all guilty.
The fact that you’re reading this article right now proves that you’ve purchased coltan and contributed to mining. Coltan is one of the main substances needed to make our cell phones, laptops, and other electronics.
Fortunately, coltan is a metal that can be recycled. Recycling your old phone or laptop means that major companies need to mine less in Africa.
It’s not only coltan mining that’s harming wildlife, though. Animals are needlessly dying from materials that should have been recycled.
It doesn’t take much scrolling to find a heart-wrenching photograph of a turtle stuck inside discarded soda can rings. It’s not enough to switch from plastic straws to paper ones, the world needs change at the major corporate level.
How to Start
If your business is to join the worldwide movement towards a new, healthy planet, you’ll want to start on the homefront.
Ensuring that your waste is being recycled can make all the difference. In order to manage this waste, you’ll need the proper equipment like a baler or compactor.
These machines break down materials and tie them off so that they can be shipped off to recycling plants.
The right type of baler depends on your business’s productivity. Here is a great comprehensive list of the different types of balers and their uses!
Our Future in Your Hands
Thinking about our planet can be bleak but it doesn’t have to be. Recycling isn’t just the right business move, it’s your responsibility as a business owner.
Whether you work with metals or paper, glass or food, adding to the positive environmental impact of recycling is within reach! With our help, your business can help make the world a safer place to live.
Our site is full of helpful articles to lead you in the right direction. When you’re ready to join the thousands of businesses switching to more sustainable practices, we’ll be waiting for you.