Generally, recycling has a major positive impact on the environment, as it keeps paper and plastic away from landfills. Plastic can take thousands of years to decompose, and recycling will keep it away from landfills, save space, and conserve energy. However, plastics are very complex, and this is where the problem occurs. Plastics are labeled a number, from one to seven, symbolizing it’s form and use. Not all of these plastics are recyclable though, and many people do not realize this. When plastic is recycled that is not meant to be, it slows down the efficiency of workers at sorting plants. As each plastic material contains different additives, contamination in the recycle bin can compromise the strength and durability of recycled plastic that is produced. However, as long as society is aware of what plastics can be recycled, it will surely be nothing short of a positive impact.
One negative aspect of recycling is its financial burden on municipal entities operating the program. The labor costs, transportation costs are often higher than those of garbage disposal. Not to mention the processing of recyclables are also expensive and resource intensive. Generally, it is more cost effective to make a product out of virgin materials than with recycled materials.
Unlike what majphan says, recycling is often much more energy efficient and cost effective than making a product out of virgin materials. The numbers very depending on who you ask. This article says that recycling glass is 26.5% more efficient than making it from virgin material, but the Boy Scout Environmental Science Merit Badge handbook says that it is 50% more efficient.
The thing about recycling is that it still requires energy no matter how you cut it. Re-use is much better than recycling because it requires only a small amount of energy. In Canada, beer bottles are standardized so that they can be collected, sanitized, and refilled. This process uses a lot less energy than melting the bottles down entirely.
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