Society and production processes inevitably generate waste. A sustainable waste policy should always aim at minimizing it. The best waste will always be the one that is never produced. However, in the best case, in the smallest possible amount, certain materials will end up becoming waste. In this case, the reutilization and recycling become of vital importance, as they involve the recovery of raw materials and their re-introduction into production processes.
Recycling is a process by which waste materials are subjected to treatments that allow them to be transformed into new raw materials or products. Among the environmental benefits of recycling are:
- It represents a saving of raw materials, some of which are scarce, or can only be obtained through very expensive and polluting extraction processes.
- Recycling allows for saving energy and reducing pollution, both in the extraction and manufacturing phases.
- Recycling allows for the preservation of natural resources such as water, wood, and minerals.
- Recycling means reducing the final volume of waste that ends up in landfills, which should always be the last option.
But, what is the ecological importance of recycling? Does its effect really make a difference in the environment? Is it an invention of big companies to make more money? The answer is clear, recycling is absolutely essential in a modern and sustainable society. For example:
- Each ton of recovered paper contains as much cellulose fiber as 4 m3 of wood, equivalent to about 14-16 trees.
- 3,000 recycled glass bottles represent one ton of waste that does not go to the landfill, and 1.2 tons of raw material and 40% of manufacturing energy are saved.
- For every two tons of recycled plastic, one ton of oil is saved.
- Recycling the steel contained in tinplate allows for a reduction of up to 86% in air pollution produced in the extraction and manufacturing process.
- For every ton of recycled aluminum, four tons of bauxite, the mineral from which aluminum is obtained and whose extraction is costly and highly polluting, are avoided.