Last updated on November 30th, 2019
What is more beneficial? To recycle or not to recycle? Here are several pros and cons of recycling that can help you have a definitive answer to that question.
32 Important Pros and Cons of Recycling
In this current time and age, one thing that has become of great concern around the globe is waste management. The world’s population, which is rapidly growing by the day, has made the situation even worse.
Recycling is one way of managing some of the waste we produce and today we will look at the main pros and cons of recycling.
If we don’t manage these wastes, we continue to put our environment at risk, which in turn endangers our own lives.
Whether it’s plastic wastes, glass, paper, or any other waste, most of the garbage can be recycled to ensure that it doesn’t end up in landfills.
Recycling has numerous advantages, as well as disadvantages. However, before we delve deeper into the pros and cons of recycling, let’s define what recycling is and how it works.
What is Recycling?
Recycling in simple terms refers to the process of making new objects out of the used or waste materials. It involves the process of breaking down waste materials and using them as raw material for new objects. Recycling is done in a recycling center.
Recycling can be used in the place of traditional waste disposal methods. Instead of throwing waste materials in landfills which only leads to pollution, we can recycle reusable materials.
Some of the recyclable materials include paper, glass, plastic, cardboard, tires, metal textiles and more.
The US is one of the highest producers of municipal waste in the world but recycles a considerably small amount of waste.
Statistics show that although the US represents around 4% of the global population, the country generates about 12% of the world’s solid waste.
On the other hand, India and China combined represent about 36% of the global population but produces around 27% of the total waste.
What Are Recycling Centers?
Recycling centers are plants or establishments which are tasked with the process of turning old and waste materials into new products. The recycling centers collect the waste materials and convert them into something new which can be used again.
The main aim of recycling centers is to reduce the number of wastes reaching the landfills, which in turn reduces the environmental pollution.
Let’s get into what the true advantages and disadvantages are. We will break out down in the following categories:
- General pros and cons of recycling
- Pros and cons analysis of recycling plastic
- Pros and cons analysis of recycling glass
So, what are these pros and cons of recycling?
Advantages of Recycling
Here are several pros to recycling.
Reduces environmental pollution
Well, this is the most obvious one. As we recycle we reduce the amount of used and waste materials, that reaches to the landfills or the incinerators. This, in itself, is a plus for the environment.
Whether, we burn the waste materials in incinerators, or pile them in landfills to decay, some toxins will always find their way into the ground, water or the atmosphere.
This means that the ideal thing to do with the waste materials is to recycle them. In some instances, we can also turn these waste materials into energy.
This way, we ensure that the materials that would have otherwise caused pollution is put into better use and that is environmentally friendly.
Reduced atmospheric pollution is beneficial to the environment as it reduces effects such as global warming.
See Related: What is Sustainability?
Creation of Jobs
The entire recycling process needs manpower. Recycling centers, where recycled products are manufactured, employs people, creating jobs for community members. In addition, these recycled products contribute to the growth of the economy, which leads to more jobs.
These recycling centers create various middle-class jobs which are ideal for people with minimum education levels, around them. The collection of trash and transportation of the same up to the recycling plants, all need workforce, which is a source of employment.
Ecocycle.org estimates that, if the U.S. recycling rate rose to 75%, by 2030, it would generate around 1.1 million jobs. This is a significant deal of new jobs from one industry.
In addition, the firm also cites that both recycling and reuse, generates nine times more job opportunities, in comparison to incinerators and landfills.
You Can Save Money Through Recycling
Some companies pay people for their trash, to encourage the habit of recycling waste materials. For example, some firms will buy old and obsolete electronics, water bottles, scrap metal and many other items.
If you can exchange your waste materials with cash, it’s a good way to make some extra cash. Also, when you purchase recycled products, you will be able to save some money, as these products are relatively cheaper.
Therefore, not only is recycling beneficial to the environment, but it is also economically beneficial to you.
Recycling Increase The Overall Environmental Consciousness
By recycling, people get more and more environmentally conscious. It can be an excellent opening for many other types of environmental activism. For example, someone might just start with recycling and gradually upgrade to installing panels or composting to preserve the environment.
Recycling helps the ones doing it feel they are doing something worth for the environment. This can change the overall living trends of people, leading to a greener lifestyle that is less harmful to the environment.
Reduction of Energy In The Manufacture of Goods
When looking at the pros and cons of recycling, this is one benefit we cannot fail to mention. What it means is that the manufacture of recycled products requires less energy in comparison to manufacturing completely new products. This is beneficial both in economic terms, as well as for environmental conservation.
For instance, let’s assume a company wishes to produce a garment. If they are to create the textile from the raw material, it means they will have to undertake all the processes right from harvesting the cotton crop to making the garment.
However, if they use old waste materials, they will forego all the initial steps, which would save both on time and energy.
Recycling Generates Educational Opportunities
Recycling is not only doing good when taking care of the waste we produce but rather even by the morals we instill in our communities. Creating awareness about handling waste can be even more beneficial than recycling itself.
Imparting communities with proper information can lead to less production of waste materials either by less consumption or reuse.
See Related: What is Greywater and How to Recycle It
Reduces Consumption of Fossil Fuel
Recycling for most products requires less energy than what is required in a fresh production process. For this reason, recycling will use less fossil fuel like oil which makes it somewhat cheaper, especially when oil prices are high.
If Adequately Done, It Can Significantly Reduce Contamination Issues
Proper recycling will greatly reduce water, land and air contamination. For example, if one quart of engine oil is properly recycled, it reduces the risk of contaminating over two million gallons of our freshwater.
Also, since multiple toxic items never wear out, refining them for reuse is better to avoid contamination of the environment.
Disadvantages of Recycling
Just as recycling has various advantages both to the environment and economically, it also has some cons. Here are some negative effects of recycling that you should know.
This will help you have a broader view of the pros and cons of recycling.
Recycling Also Uses Energy
If you have heard of the 3 Rs, (reduce, reuse and recycle), some environmentalists say that of the three options, “recycle” uses some energy unlike the other two. This means that “reduce and reuse” are more beneficial to the environment than recycling.
Therefore, some people argue that we should do our best to consume fewer products instead of consuming too much and then trying to recycle.
Reduction in the use would have more benefits to the environment than the recycling process.
Recycling Can Also Lead to Pollution
Critics of recycling argue that the advantages of the recycling process are overrated. They say that apart from the fact that recycling also consumes energy, it can also lead to some pollution. But how does pollution occur in recycling?
Most of the electronics labeled for recycling in the developed countries end up in developing countries where the sorting process is done using hands.
These electronics contain chemicals, metals and other elements that may percolate into the water or land and cause pollution.
This means that in places near recycling centers, there might be a level of pollution on the land or water bodies around them. Therefore, the recycling process ought to be done with the highest caution.
Recycling Process is Costly
When it comes to the cost of undertaking the recycling process, some critics argue that its costs outweigh its benefits. Some communities, cities and towns say that they lack the capacity to undertake recycling programs.
For example, in the US, space for setting up landfills is cheaply available, which makes recycling seem more expensive. Some will, therefore, prefer landfills for disposal of the waste materials, instead of recycling plants.
Also, some materials are more expensive to recycle than others. For instance, some city governments opt not to recycle plastic and glass due to the high cost of the process.
Offering An Untrue Sense of Security
Opponents of recycling say that recycling is not the ultimate solution. They argue that it only delays or slows the damage caused by humans to the environment.
Although recycling proponents want to see recycling as the ultimate solution to environmental pollution, this might not be the case.
Unless people have a clear understanding of the damage caused by waste materials to the environment, recycling will only have a minor effect.
Workers In Recycling Centers Risk Toxic Exposures.
Although most of the recycling process is automated, the process still poses risks to workers in these plants.
This is because it’s the workers, who will sort some of this garbage, which exposes them to toxins that may be hazardous to their bodies.
Pros and Cons of Recycling Plastic
Different waste materials require different recycling processes. Each of these processes has its pros and cons. Let’s see the pros and cons of recycling plastic.
- Plastic Recycling uses less energy than producing new plastic
- The process also helps to reduce the use of new raw materials
- Recycling reduces land, water, and air pollution as compared to landfills
- It helps to conserve our natural resources thus saving the earth
- It promotes environmental awareness and the sustainable use of natural resources
- Recycling plastic creates green jobs
- When done well, recycling helps to mitigate global warming
Some of the negative effects of recycling plastic include:
- If not done right, VOCs released during the melting down of plastic can be harmful to both animal and plant life nearby.
- The recycling process produces some carbon emissions, which can contribute to the greenhouse effect if not handled well.
- After the first recycling, this plastic is no longer ideal for another recycling round. Unlike recycling metal, plastic recycling means that after one or two recycling processes, you need fresh raw material. This means that the manufacturer will need to find fresh raw materials.
- Recycling of plastic doesn’t guarantee quality products.
Pros and Cons of Recycling Glass
Just like in plastic recycling, glass recycling also has its good and bad sides. Here are some of the pros and cons of recycling glass:
- The process of recycling glass helps to save energy as it melts in lower temperatures as compared to the components of its raw material.
- It reduces water and air pollution by about 40% and 20% respectively.
- Glass recycling helps people to make money. For example, some states in the US, have some programs that give cash incentives for the highest recycled glass items.
- The process helps to conserve our natural resources for future generations.
- Preservation of the environment. This is because recycling leads to less littering of glass items on every park or roadside.
- We cannot recycle some types of glasses like those in window panes and light bulbs. This is because they contain some ceramics and multiple other impurities.
- Glass recycling can create unemployment, especially in the manufacturing industry, because recycling requires less manpower.
- The whole process is costly.
Conclusion on Pros and Cons of Recycling
Whether its metal, plastic, glass or any other type of recycling, the benefits of the process seems to outweigh the negatives.
Therefore, when looking at the pros and cons of recycling, we should put in mind the fact that our environment matters and should do anything to protect it.
I hope that this piece offers you all you need to know regarding recycling.
If you have any observations or comments on the above pros and cons? Share with us in our comments area.
- 5 Best Reusable K Cup Options to Become More Eco-Friendly
- Are Plastic Straws Recyclable? (A Guide to Eco-Friendly Straw Recycling)
- How to Recycle Brita Filters (Safe & Eco-Friendly Tips to Consider)
Green Coast is a renewable energy and green living community focused on helping others live a better, more sustainable life.
We believe that energy and green living has become far too complex, so we created a number of different guides to build a sustainable foundation for our future.