Waste recycling is a major component of waste management that involves the conversion of waste to reusable products.
Waste recycling industry is currently a new and under-explored business niche in Nigeria. Few privately owned companies engage in this aspect of waste management while Nigeria faces persistent problems of inappropriate solid waste disposal that have proved environmentally unfriendly and hazardous to health.
The contents of waste found at many refuse-dumping sites are not alien to us. They are usually wastes from household items or from businesses offering public services. Some are biodegradable and while some are non-biodegradable or slow to decompose.
But an outstanding component of these refuse contents are usually non-biodegradable items such as polythene bags, water sachets, old batteries or spoilt electronics, paints, metal scraps, baby diapers, plastic containers, broken glasses etc.
What could be done if such generated waste amassed to a rich bank of garbage that resides opposite your front door? Definitely, you could hardly sleep and wake up pleasantly.
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In order to manage waste effectively, many developed countries engage in waste recycling. In 2014, 50 % of the world’s waste and recycling industries were in the European Union, with over 60,000 companies that engaged 500,000 persons in employment and with financial gain of £24 billion.
A beautiful aspect that is noteworthy is that citizens are given good orientation on waste management right from early school years!
Government policies, mandatory collection laws and regulations on waste disposal are effectively reinforced from large industries to households where non-biodegradable wastes must be separated prior to disposal.
How could we imbibe a similar culture of proper waste management without evaluating the rewards of recycling? This write-up focusses on the benefits of reducing waste through Recycling.
BENEFITS OF WASTE RECYCLING
1. Conserves Energy
It takes a great deal of energy to convert fresh raw materials to new products. What of recycling old waste to new products? Far less energy! How so?
In manufacturing new products, many industries spend more energy in extracting, refining, transporting, and processing raw materials to be suitable for use in production. Whereas, recycling of waste materials provides industry with ready materials for production without going through the conventional stages of preparing these raw materials.
For example, 90 to 95% of energy required in producing Aluminium from bauxite ore can be saved through recycling of Aluminium wastes of similar amount. Additionally, 33 cans of recycled Aluminium saves up to 7 kilowatt-hours (KWh) of electricity while 20 recycled aluminium can be produced with the same energy it takes to produce a single aluminium can from its virgin source – bauxite ore. What would be the impact if thousands of aluminium cans were discarded to landfills? _ Reckless waste indeed!
2. Conserves the earth’s environment and its natural resources
Waste recycling has numerous benefits to the earth’s environment and its natural resources. Our environment is one of Earth’s priceless components that support the existence of man and all that is in it.
The earth’s environment includes its natural resources which symbiotically protects the earth’s ecosystem too. Natural resources are also needed to satisfy human needs. But how would the case be if these natural resources where extracted and utilized faster than they could be replaced?
Note that the earth’s ecosystem is interlinked in a very complex network. Therefore, excessive exploitation of a specific natural resource creates an imbalance in the ecosystem and nevertheless destroys many others. For these reason we experience heavy floods, drought and other unfavourable climatic changes.
Would it be reasonable to lose our ecosystem along with its natural resources in the name of filling needs of man through unfavourable human activities that impact negatively on the environment?
A practice such as incineration or combustion of waste materials does nothing close to protecting and cleaning the environment. Rather, it increases the concentrate of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere which eventually contribute to global warming and climate change. Certainly, the practice of recycling waste does a great deal in reducing global warming.
Additionally, Recycling does great benefit in conserving the earth’s natural resources. A major threat to the environment is the high rate of falling trees before they can be replaced. Woods from trees are of high demands by various industries.
If industries seek out other alternatives such as recycled materials, it would go a long way to reduce deforestation and prevent land erosions. The impact of other human activities (such as mining and quarrying) on the environment could be further reduced if recycled waste were seen as alternative resources.
3. Positively impacts on the economy
Recycling benefits the economy in several ways. It encourages the creation of new jobs and generation of revenue. New jobs and businesses could be created in the area of transporting and selling recovered waste. Companies could also process recovered waste and make them suitable as quality recyclates needed by manufacturing companies in production of new products.
A study reveals that 10,000 tons of waste dumped in a landfill is able to create 6 jobs, whereas recycling 10,000 tons of waste is able to create at least 36 jobs. Thus, a growing labour force can be generated through recycling. What prospect can one visualise?
So long as man continues to engage in a variety of endeavours, waste would always remain an aspect of human society. Definitely, there will always be need for skilled workers such as process engineers and chemist, truck drivers, dispatchers etc. in the waste recycling industry.
In some countries like the U.S., California, Recycling industries accounted for the high rate of employment – 8,500 jobs. Each year, over $10 billion worth of goods and services were realised.
Apart from creating new jobs, the returns of trading with recycled materials can be very rewarding for a country engaged in this industry. The reason is because some countries do not have their own natural resources but have to import waste materials for their manufacturing industries.
For example, Japan and China depend on recycled materials as alternatives in order to cope with their limited natural resources. So long as there is a demand, there is a market for recycled materials and therefore high potential for revenue generation.
4. Reduces Landfill Waste
For ages, landfills have been the oldest and most common method for managing waste disposal. Waste materials are either buried or heaped in a designated land for waste management purposes. Where environmental laws are not reinforced, such sites become permanent storage for generations and a menace to both health and environment.
The problems associated with the practice of accumulating waste in landfills for several years are difficult to fix due to the build-up of difficult-to-remove harmful substances that become a component system of the surrounding soil, water, and air. Thus, imparting health hazards to inhabitants and neighbouring communities.
Though landfills cannot be avoided entirely, re-purposing waste through recycling can reduce landfills to a greater extent, alongside the harmful effects associated with it. Non-biodegradable materials such as plastics do not have to be deposited for long enough to emit harmful gases to the environment. Other waste materials such as papers, metal scraps, leather, food, etc. could equally be recycled to cut back on land and water pollution.
5. Saves money
Producing new products from recycled materials is a cost effective way of managing production cost. For most manufacturers, containers and packaging constitute one of the main expenditures in production. More money can be saved if manufacturers employed the use of recycled materials for packaging.
After all a great number of packaging end up as waste by consumers. Products made from recycled materials are also cheaper in price than their counterparts.
Recycling benefits the economy by reducing expenses needed to clear landfill sites off refuse dumps. Millions of naira could additionally be saved if such landfills were reserved for other revenue generating purposes.
In some communities where cost of waste disposal can be exorbitant, local inhabitants can benefit by selling materials than can be recycled to cover the cost of disposing waste.
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RECYCLING DOES IT!
What better rewards can be achieved when the earth’s natural resources and environment are preserved for future generation, when the economy is boosted with thousands of jobs created and revenue generation increases, or when goods are easily affordable because of minimised cost of production?
Certainly, these benefits and more make waste recycling worthy of our endeavour in minimizing waste that negatively impacts on the economy.
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