Recycling Basics

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,359
    Environmental Expert Steve Coe breaks down recycling basics.

    Steve Coe: I am Steve Coe with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Today, we're talking about how to recycle and now we're going to talk about recycling basics. First thing people usually want to know is what is recycling. That you know definition for recycling is taking a product that has had the end of its useful life and then putting it back into the system to be made into new products.

    Some of the products that you used to recycling are aluminium cans, newspapers, cardboard, plastic bottles and glass. These type of materials or what you would normally generate as waste in your home or office, and these are the things that are normally collected in local government collection programs for recycling.

    Let's talk about the process of recycling. Recycling Mobius shows that it's a three part process. The first part is where you play an important role. When you decide not to throw the materials into the trash but to take it to the recycle center or put it in your curbside collection bin then you've started recycling.

    The second part of the Mobius shows that after the collection, material has to be sent to a processor who can bail it, shred it or otherwise prepare it for shipping to industry who will then turn it into a new product and that is the third part of recycling, is turning it into a new product, which then you and your mom and dad or your friends can buy as a new product and return it back to your home again. So the plastic bottle that you recycled today could be back on the shelf in two or three weeks and you could buy it and take it back home with you.

    Recycling is just one part of what we call the Waste Management Hierarchy. A hierarchy ranks how waste is managed in the order of priority from highest to lowest priority. The best way to handle waste is not to produce it at all. This is called Reduce. By reducing what you generate as waste, you have less that you need to manage in any other way and it therefore saves resources and is important.

    Second is Reuse. There are certain materials and products that you bring into your home and to your office, that instead of being thrown away, can be reused on a daily basis until they're no longer functional. Third is recycling. Recycling is where we take something that needs to be thrown away because it can no longer serve its useful purpose, but put it back into the network, that is recycling.

    The next three levels of the Waste Management Hierarchy are disposal options. The first of these is waste to energy or energy recovery and these products that we generate as waste are put into an incinerator where steam is generated to produce electricity or other powers. After this, then you have incineration simply to reduce the amount of material that has re-landfilled. And finally, is land filling. Landfilling is the least beneficial option for the waste that we generate and all of the items in the Waste Hierarchy above that are to be considered first.

    Now let's talk about why recycling is important? The first thing recycling does, is it conserves natural resources. When we recycle our paper, fewer trees need to be cut down. When we recycle aluminium less mining has to be done to bring the virgin materials to the manufacturer. When we recycle glass, the materials that are used to make glass including sand, don't need to be transported across the country to the glass plants saving the energy and reducing pollution.

    Recycling has a pollution prevention benefit. In almost every case, when you use recycled feed stock to make a new product, your energy consumption goes down. Therefore, less energy is needed to make the product and less pollution is created by the power plants that feed those particular industries. Recycling has many economic benefits. First it creates jobs. jobs are important to a community because it creates a tax base and helps them provide the services that you as a citizen need.

    Secondly, when you recycle and reuse materials and don't put it into the trash, the local government saves on its disposal cost. So, recycling is one way to keep materials out the landfill, help the local government through job creation and reduce this cost of disposal.

    Now that we've talked about the basics of and the benefits of recycling, in the next segment, we will talk about recycling management.