is recycling sustainable
07 Oct 2020

Is Recycling Sustainable?

As the world continues to develop rapidly, it has become increasingly important for us to take care of our environment for future generations. Recycling makes people feel like they are doing their bit to save the planet. However, this is only solving a small part of the problem. The best way we can all make a more sustainable environment, is to reuse.

What is recycling?

The dictionary definition of recycling is “the process of collecting and changing old paper, glass, plastic etc so that it can be used again” [1]. There are many benefits that come with recycling, such as it reduces the amount of materials being sent to landfill and reduces the need to extract raw materials from the earth to manufacture new materials resulting in fewer carbon emissions that are being released into the atmosphere [2].

Although recycling looks like a simple way to contribute to a greener environment, it can be quite difficult to do. It is not always easy to understand what can or cannot be recycled. Because there are so many different types of paper and plastic, it can cause confusion when coming to dispose of them. Further still, the actual act of recycling the materials uses a lot of energy. 

Products are being made to be thrown away. They are dispensable. Manufacturers are, however, starting to make products that are made of recyclable materials. However, all this is doing, is contributing to our throw away behaviour.

However, the problem is a lot larger than just the materials used. The entire system of the product life cycle needs considering. Recycling is only a small part of this system. Rather than addressing the underlying problem, recycling solves a symptom of the system. 

What is the whole system?

The whole system consists of extracting raw materials, transporting them, using them to manufacture product, packaging, shipping, delivery, advertising and finally, disposal. Manufacturers are mostly concerned about providing their customers with a high performance and low cost product. They do not consider the cost to the environment at any stage of the system.

In order to solve the whole problem, we need to be making products which can be repaired. By repairing products for reuse, we are considering the environment at all stages, as less products will need to be made brand-new.

In conclusion, recycling may look like it is solving our environmental problems, but it is simply solving a symptom; it is not a sustainable way to help our planet. To solve the problem, manufacturers need to make products to repair, and we need to change our behaviour towards buying and throwing away.



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