An important thing to realize, is that humans have always re-used materials when possible, especially in nomadic periods of human history. That’s why so little is found in some archaeological sites, other than pieces of broken pottery and an some occasional bones; There was less waste to begin with back then, but there was also a greater need to recycle objects, clothing, etc. than in post-agricultural revolution (and especially post-industrial revolution) times.
As for current practices, recycling definitely has it’s benefits to the environment: Recycling reduces energy necessary to process raw materials into things like aluminum and glass, reduces deforestation in the paper industry, reduces soil and water pollution by keeping waste out of the earth and waterways, as well as reducing air pollution by reducing carbon emissions in factories and in the extraction and transportation of raw materials.
On a side note, the slogan “Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle,” is in that order for a reason. First, reduce consumption (e.i. ask yourself “Do I REALLY need this?) Then re-use when at all possible (Empty bottles can be refilled hundreds of times.) Then, of course, recycle when the first two steps can’t be done.
A view of a recycling facility for recycling electronics will tell the whole story.
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