An estimated 2.5 billion to 4 billion metric tons of wastes are collected worldwide. These wastes are treated in four different methods: disposal in uncontrolled and illegal deposits, disposal in controlled landfills, incineration, and recycling (“From Waste to Resource,” 2006)
According to the Global Development Research Center (2003), the volume of wastes is on an upward trend; more and more waste will be produced in the coming years. This poses risks to the environment and the human health. Therefore, proper management of these wastes is important. Looking at the four methods of waste treatment, recycling is the best method because not only does it treat waste, it actually reduces waste.
Recycling is the process of extending the life of a product beyond its intended use by “re-manufacturing” an old product to turn it into a new one, creating a new product by combining several old ones, or simply re-using the product (Pellow, Schnaiberg, & Weinberg, 2000).
Several benefits have been linked to recycling wastes and these benefits cover both economic and environmental benefits.
Economically speaking, recycling saves money. The cost of using recycled materials in manufacturing products is cheaper than using new or fresh products. Also, because wastes are reduced by recycling, less waste will be incinerated or deposited in the landfills. This means that waste disposal costs can be reduced. (Pellow, Schnaiberg, & Weinberg, 2000)
Recycling can also create the opportunity of creating jobs and having additional income. Communities and companies that manufacture and sell recycled products need employees, thus, jobs are created and the people they employ would have a livelihood. In the Philippines, for example, a social welfare group trained impoverished women how to make bags out of doy packs of juices. These “doy bags,” which can be totes, phone cases, and handbags are then sold. Barnes & Noble, the largest United States book retailer, is one of the clients. These doy bags are also popular in Europe and Japan, wherein bulk orders are made (Puod, 2009).
Recycling can also help a community generate revenue. The reduction of waste means that less waste will be deposited in landfills, therefore, requiring less land area to be used. This is largely beneficial to communities or countries with a small land area; the saved land can be used for revenue –generating functions (Pellow, Schnaiberg, & Weinberg, 2000).
Environmentally speaking, recycling helps in saving resources. There are processes that break down products into raw reusable ones. For example, Sony Ericsson’s Greenheart program uses recycled plastics as material for producing their mobile phones. Instead of incinerating these plastics (mostly plastic bottles) which would be harmful to the environment, they are reused (German, 2009). Another example is Starbuck’s cup sleeves made out of recycled materials. Starbuck’s cup sleeves are 60 percent recycled materials. This means that 60 percent less trees than it would otherwise require are cut down in making these cup sleeves (Alliance for Environmental Innovation, 2000).
Landfills emit gasses that are harmful to human health as well as the ozone layer. Incineration also emits harmful gasses to contribute to air pollution. By recycling, the volume of waste to incinerated or deposited in landfills are reduced and would also help in reducing the emission of harmful gasses (Donaldson, Gomez, & Grimes, 2008).
Given the economic and environmental benefits gained, recycle should now, therefore, be made mandatory.
Alliance for Environmental Innovation. (2000). Report of the Starbucks coffee company. Boston,
MA: Environmental Defense
Donaldson J., Gomez, G.C., & Grimes, S. (2008). Report of the environmental benefits of
recycling. London: Imperial College
German, K. (2009). Sony Ericsson announces C901, Naite ‘Greenheart’ phones. Retrieved from
Global Development Research Center. (2003). Waste management: Fact sheet. Retrieved from
Pellow, D.N., Schnaiberg, A., & Weinberg, A.S. (2000). Urban recycling and the search for
sustainable community development. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Puod, A. (2009). Filipino communities turn trash into cash. Retrieved from http://ipsnews.net/
Veolia Environmental Services (2006). From waste to resources: An abstract of 2006 world
waste survey. Paris, France: Chalmin, P. & Lacoste, E.