Recycling has long been hailed as an environment friendly practice, one that has almost no disadvantages. Companies around the world are proud to present the fact that they recycle. Governments issue incentives and tax breaks if companies or individual contribute to recycling. There is no doubt in popular perception that recycling is great.
Recycling is indeed good but it is not without its fair share of shortcomings. Everything will have at least two sides to it, if not more. If those two sides are not simple white and black then it could be grey and many shades of grey.
List of Pros of Recycling
1. Recycling uses less energy. Manufacturing of almost everything requires energy, unless we are talking about the hand-woven shawls or hand-stirred and manually churned molasses. When raw materials are used in manufacturing, the energy needed is at the pinnacle. Raw materials are not ready to be used in the products that are being produced and a lot of processing takes place. There could be anywhere from a couple to dozens of processes before a particular raw material is ready to be carved, molded, affixed or churned into the end product. All of this takes a lot of energy.
Not only does the increased energy requirement have a financial bearing on a company and thus on the consumer who would eventually pay the price of the product but the energy requirement burdens the nonrenewable energy sources. Using materials that can be recycled reduces the need to churn the material through numerous processes. As a result, less energy is needed.
2. Manufacturing raw materials succeeds procurement of raw materials. Mining, cultivation, refining or whatever method that is used to procure the raw materials are also tedious, energy consuming and extremely expensive. Using recycled materials makes things simpler, cheap and quick.
3. Recycling has always been in the news for being a friend to the environment. It is not hard to guess why. Recycling ensures that mining and refining is under control, excavations or rampant processing of raw materials is in control. Recycling ensures there is less deforestation, it slows down the depletion of coal reserves and fossil fuels and there is less byproduct in the process as transforming raw materials into usable materials generate a lot more waste. All of these and more are the environmental benefits of recycling.
4. Recycling reduces pollution. It keeps global warming in check, albeit to a very small extent. Greenhouse gases emissions are less than what manufacturing products from raw materials would exude. There is less transportation and use of chemicals and even the waste generated, whether toxic or nontoxic, is much less. Recycling also saves space on landfills and thus allows biodegradable waste to be dumped, which bears no major threat to the world.
5. Recycling contains the need for more and more energy which in turn reduces the rate of depletion of natural resources. Whether it is coal or fossil fuels, trees or minerals, raw materials of any kind or specially engineered products; recycling helps to conserve natural resources.
List of Cons of Recycling
1. Recycling is not reassembling. It is not as simple as a broken piece being put together again. Recycling does need elaborate processing. This can be quite expensive in some cases. Recycling doesn’t suit all industries or every type of product. To begin with, recycling would often need exclusive factories and the processes or methods would have to be effective. For that, companies need to make fresh investments and even then the outcome may not be as desired. In many ways, recycling is not cost effective at all.
2. Storing materials for recycling, transporting them and cleaning them can cause pollution. That way, recycling doesn’t actually help the environment. Recycling often leads to unsafe sites. When recycled materials are processed or when materials are recycled, the site can often be unhygienic and consistent use of the facility may make it susceptible to various woes, from being a hotbed of disease to causing a major accident due to chemical or toxic waste. All the waste generated in recycling facilities pose the same challenges as manufacturing from raw materials. They can all get blended with the ground water or with water runoff from the site and the result would be a degraded environment. If such waste gets mixed with ground water or drinking water then the consequences can be quite untoward.
3. Recycling doesn’t really make the best of products. Almost every material in the world will undergo wear and tear. The materials that do not show signs of ageing or forever remain as good as they were when they were new will not get disposed off anyway. As the materials being recycled are fragile to begin with, it is obvious that the eventual durability of the recycled product will be less than desirable.