Recycling

Recycling

Overview
Recycling is processing used material
Material
Material is anything made of matter, constituted of one or more substances. Wood, cement, hydrogen, air and water are all examples of materials. Sometimes the term "material" is used more narrowly to refer to substances or components with certain physical properties that are used as inputs to...

s (waste
Waste
Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

 usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration
Incineration
Incineration is a waste treatment process that involves the combustion of organic substances contained in waste materials. Incineration and other high temperature waste treatment systems are described as "thermal treatment". Incineration of waste materials converts the waste into ash, flue gas, and...

) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 emissions as compared to virgin production. Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the "Reduce
Waste minimisation
Waste minimization is the process and the policy of reducing the amount of waste produced by a person or a society.Waste minimization involves efforts to minimize resource and energy use during manufacture. For the same commercial output, usually the fewer materials are used, the less waste is...

, Reuse
Reuse
To reuse is to use an item more than once. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again for the same function, and new-life reuse where it is used for a different function. In contrast, recycling is the breaking down of the used item into raw materials which are used to make new...

, Recycle" waste hierarchy
Waste hierarchy
The waste hierarchy refers to the 3 Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle, or and [ which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability. The Rs are meant to be a hierarchy, in order of importance...

.

There are some ISO standards relating to recycling such as ISO 15270:2008 for plastics waste and ISO 14001:2004 for environmental management control of recycling practice.

Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

, paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

, metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

, plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

, textile
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s, and electronics
Electronics
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...

.
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Encyclopedia
Recycling is processing used material
Material
Material is anything made of matter, constituted of one or more substances. Wood, cement, hydrogen, air and water are all examples of materials. Sometimes the term "material" is used more narrowly to refer to substances or components with certain physical properties that are used as inputs to...

s (waste
Waste
Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

 usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration
Incineration
Incineration is a waste treatment process that involves the combustion of organic substances contained in waste materials. Incineration and other high temperature waste treatment systems are described as "thermal treatment". Incineration of waste materials converts the waste into ash, flue gas, and...

) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 emissions as compared to virgin production. Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the "Reduce
Waste minimisation
Waste minimization is the process and the policy of reducing the amount of waste produced by a person or a society.Waste minimization involves efforts to minimize resource and energy use during manufacture. For the same commercial output, usually the fewer materials are used, the less waste is...

, Reuse
Reuse
To reuse is to use an item more than once. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again for the same function, and new-life reuse where it is used for a different function. In contrast, recycling is the breaking down of the used item into raw materials which are used to make new...

, Recycle" waste hierarchy
Waste hierarchy
The waste hierarchy refers to the 3 Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle, or and [ which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability. The Rs are meant to be a hierarchy, in order of importance...

.

There are some ISO standards relating to recycling such as ISO 15270:2008 for plastics waste and ISO 14001:2004 for environmental management control of recycling practice.

Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

, paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

, metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

, plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

, textile
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s, and electronics
Electronics
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...

. Although similar in effect, the composting or other reuse of biodegradable waste
Biodegradable waste
Biodegradable waste is a type of waste, typically originating from plant or animal sources, which may be degraded by other living organisms. Waste that cannot be broken down by other living organisms are called non-biodegradable....

 – such as food
Food waste
Food waste or food loss is food that is discarded or lost uneaten. As of 2011, 1.3 billion tons of food, about one third of the global food production, are lost or wasted annually. Loss and wastage occurs on all steps in the food supply chain...

 or garden waste
Green waste
Green waste is biodegradable waste that can be composed of garden or park waste, such as grass or flower cuttings and hedge trimmings, as well as domestic and commercial food waste...

 – is not typically considered recycling. Materials to be recycled are either brought to a collection center or picked up from the curbside, then sorted, cleaned, and reprocessed into new materials bound for manufacturing.

In the strictest sense, recycling of a material would produce a fresh supply of the same material—for example, used office paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

 would be converted into new office paper, or used foamed polystyrene
Polystyrene
Polystyrene ) also known as Thermocole, abbreviated following ISO Standard PS, is an aromatic polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry...

 into new polystyrene. However, this is often difficult or too expensive (compared with producing the same product from raw materials or other sources), so "recycling" of many products or materials involves their reuse
Reuse
To reuse is to use an item more than once. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again for the same function, and new-life reuse where it is used for a different function. In contrast, recycling is the breaking down of the used item into raw materials which are used to make new...

in producing different materials (e.g., paperboard
Paperboard
Paperboard is a thick paper based material. While there is no rigid differentiation between paper and paperboard, paperboard is generally thicker than paper. According to ISO standards, paperboard is a paper with a basis weight above 224 g/m2, but there are exceptions. Paperboard can be single...

) instead. Another form of recycling is the salvage of certain materials from complex products, either due to their intrinsic value (e.g., lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 from car batteries
Battery (electricity)
An electrical battery is one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Since the invention of the first battery in 1800 by Alessandro Volta and especially since the technically improved Daniell cell in 1836, batteries have become a common power...

, or gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 from computer
Computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

 components), or due to their hazardous nature (e.g., removal and reuse of mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

 from various items).
Critics dispute the net economic and environmental benefits of recycling over its costs, and suggest that proponents of recycling often make matters worse and suffer from confirmation bias
Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.David Perkins, a geneticist, coined the term "myside bias" referring to a preference for "my" side of an issue...

. Specifically, critics argue that the costs and energy used in collection and transportation detract from (and outweigh) the costs and energy saved in the production process; also that the jobs produced by the recycling industry can be a poor trade for the jobs lost in logging, mining, and other industries associated with virgin production; and that materials such as paper pulp can only be recycled a few times before material degradation prevents further recycling. Proponents of recycling dispute each of these claims, and the validity of arguments from both sides has led to enduring controversy.

Origins


Recycling has been a common practice for most of human history, with recorded advocates as far back as Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 in 400 BC. During periods when resources were scarce, archaeological studies of ancient waste dumps show less household waste (such as ash, broken tools and pottery)—implying more waste was being recycled in the absence of new material.

In pre-industrial times, there is evidence of scrap bronze and other metals being collected in Europe and melted down for perpetual reuse. In Britain dust and ash from wood and coal fires was collected by 'dustmen
Waste collector
A waste collector is a person employed by a public or private enterprise to collect and remove refuse and recyclables from residential, commercial, industrial or other collection site for further processing and disposal...

' and downcycled
Downcycling
Downcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality...

 as a base material used in brick making. The main driver for these types of recycling was the economic advantage of obtaining recycled feedstock instead of acquiring virgin material, as well as a lack of public waste removal in ever more densely populated areas. In 1813, Benjamin Law
Benjamin Law
Benjamin Law was born around 1773 in Gomersal, Yorkshire the son of George Law and Mary Wilby. He is credited by many authors as the inventor of the shoddy process. Benjamin Law set up his business at Howley Mill....

 developed the process of turning rags into 'shoddy' and 'mungo' wool in Batley, Yorkshire. This material combined recycled fibres with virgin wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

. The West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire is a metropolitan county within the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England with a population of 2.2 million. West Yorkshire came into existence as a metropolitan county in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972....

 shoddy industry in towns such as Batley and Dewsbury, lasted from the early 19th century to at least 1914.

Industrialization spurred demand for affordable materials; aside from rags, ferrous scrap metals were coveted as they were cheaper to acquire than was virgin ore. Railroads both purchased and sold scrap metal in the 19th century, and the growing steel and automobile industries purchased scrap in the early 20th century. Many secondary goods were collected, processed, and sold by peddlers who combed dumps, city streets, and went door to door looking for discarded machinery, pots, pans, and other sources of metal. By World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, thousands of such peddlers roamed the streets of American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 cities, taking advantage of market forces to recycle post-consumer materials back into industrial production.

Wartime


Resource shortages caused by the world war
World war
A world war is a war affecting the majority of the world's most powerful and populous nations. World wars span multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple theaters....

s, and other such world-changing occurrences greatly encouraged recycling. Massive government promotion campaigns were carried out in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in every country involved in the war, urging citizens to donate metals and conserve fibre, as a matter of significant patriotic importance. For example in 1939, Britain launched the programme Paper Salvage
Paper Salvage 1939-1950
Paper Salvage was a part of a programme launched by the British Government in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War to encourage the recycling of materials to aid the war effort.- History :...

 to encourage the recycling of materials to aid the war effort. Resource conservation programs established during the war were continued in some countries without an abundance of natural resources, such as Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, after the war ended.

Post-war


The next big investment in recycling occurred in the 1970s, due to rising energy costs. Recycling aluminium uses only 5% of the energy required by virgin production; glass, paper and metals have less dramatic but very significant energy savings when recycled feedstock is used.

Supply


For a recycling program to work, having a large, stable supply
Supply and demand
Supply and demand is an economic model of price determination in a market. It concludes that in a competitive market, the unit price for a particular good will vary until it settles at a point where the quantity demanded by consumers will equal the quantity supplied by producers , resulting in an...

 of recyclable material is crucial. Three legislative options have been used to create such a supply: mandatory recycling collection, container deposit legislation
Container deposit legislation
Container-deposit legislation is any law that requires collection of a monetary deposit on soft-drink, juice, milk, water, alcoholic-beverage, and/or other containers at the point of sale...

, and refuse bans. Mandatory collection laws set recycling targets for cities to aim for, usually in the form that a certain percentage of a material must be diverted from the city's waste stream by a target date. The city is then responsible for working to meet this target.

Container deposit legislation involves offering a refund for the return of certain containers, typically glass, plastic, and metal. When a product in such a container is purchased, a small surcharge is added to the price. This surcharge can be reclaimed by the consumer if the container is returned to a collection point. These programs have been very successful, often resulting in an 80 percent recycling rate. Despite such good results, the shift in collection costs from local government to industry and consumers has created strong opposition to the creation of such programs in some areas.

A third method of increase supply of recyclates is to ban
Ban (law)
A ban is, generally, any decree that prohibits something.Bans are formed for the prohibition of activities within a certain political territory. Some see this as a negative act and others see it as maintaining the "status quo"...

 the disposal of certain materials as waste, often including used oil, old batteries, tires and garden waste. One aim of this method is to create a viable economy for proper disposal of banned products. Care must be taken that enough of these recycling services exist, or such bans simply lead to increased illegal dumping
Fly-tipping
Fly-tipping is a British term for dumping waste illegally instead of in an authorised rubbish dump. It is the illegal deposit of any waste onto land, i.e...

.

Government-mandated demand


Legislation has also been used to increase and maintain a demand for recycled materials. Four methods of such legislation exist: minimum recycled content mandates, utilization rates, procurement
Procurement
Procurement is the acquisition of goods or services. It is favourable that the goods/services are appropriate and that they are procured at the best possible cost to meet the needs of the purchaser in terms of quality and quantity, time, and location...

 policies, recycled product labeling.

Both minimum recycled content mandates and utilization rates increase demand directly by forcing manufacturers to include recycling in their operations. Content mandates specify that a certain percentage of a new product must consist of recycled material. Utilization rates are a more flexible option: industries are permitted to meet the recycling targets at any point of their operation or even contract recycling out in exchange for [trade]able credits. Opponents to both of these methods point to the large increase in reporting requirements they impose, and claim that they rob industry of necessary flexibility.

Governments have used their own purchasing power
Purchasing power
Purchasing power is the number of goods/services that can be purchased with a unit of currency. For example, if you had taken one dollar to a store in the 1950s, you would have been able to buy a greater number of items than you would today, indicating that you would have had a greater purchasing...

 to increase recycling demand through what are called "procurement policies." These policies are either "set-asides," which earmark a certain amount of spending solely towards recycled products, or "price preference" programs which provide a larger budget
Government budget
A government budget is a legal document that is often passed by the legislature, and approved by the chief executive-or president. For example, only certain types of revenue may be imposed and collected...

 when recycled items are purchased. Additional regulations can target specific cases: in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...

 mandates the purchase of oil, paper, tires and building insulation from recycled or re-refined sources whenever possible.

The final government regulation towards increased demand is recycled product labeling. When producers are required to label their packaging with amount of recycled material in the product (including the packaging), consumers are better able to make educated choices. Consumers with sufficient buying power can then choose more environmentally conscious options, prompt producers to increase the amount of recycled material in their products, and indirectly increase demand. Standardized recycling labeling can also have a positive effect on supply of recyclates if the labeling includes information on how and where the product can be recycled.

Collection



A number of different systems have been implemented to collect recyclates from the general waste stream. These systems lie along the spectrum of trade-off between public convenience and government ease and expense. The three main categories of collection are "drop-off centres", "buy-back centres" and "curbside collection".

Drop-off centres


Drop off centres require the waste producer to carry the recyclates to a central location, either an installed or mobile collection station or the reprocessing plant itself. They are the easiest type of collection to establish, but suffer from low and unpredictable throughput.

Buy-back centres


Buy-back centres differ in that the cleaned recyclates are purchased, thus providing a clear incentive for use and creating a stable supply. The post-processed material can then be sold on, hopefully creating a profit. Unfortunately government subsidies are necessary to make buy-back centres a viable enterprise, as according to the United States National Solid Wastes Management Association it costs on average US$50 to process a ton of material, which can only be resold for US$30.

Curbside collection



Curbside collection encompasses many subtly different systems, which differ mostly on where in the process the recyclates are sorted and cleaned. The main categories are mixed waste collection, commingled recyclables and source separation. A waste collection vehicle
Waste collection vehicle
Garbage truck refers to a truck specially designed to collect small quantities of waste and haul the collected waste to a solid waste treatment facility. Other common names for this type of truck include trash truck and dump truck in the United States, and bin wagon, dustcart, dustbin lorry, bin...

 generally picks up the waste.


At one end of the spectrum is mixed waste collection, in which all recyclates are collected mixed in with the rest of the waste, and the desired material is then sorted out and cleaned at a central sorting facility. This results in a large amount of recyclable waste, paper especially, being too soiled to reprocess, but has advantages as well: the city need not pay for a separate collection of recyclates and no public education is needed. Any changes to which materials are recyclable is easy to accommodate as all sorting happens in a central location.

In a Commingled or single-stream system
Single-stream recycling
Single stream recycling refers to a system in which all paper fibers, plastics, metals, and other containers are mixed together in a collection truck, instead of being sorted into separate commodities by the resident and handled separately throughout the collection...

, all recyclables for collection are mixed but kept separate from other waste. This greatly reduces the need for post-collection cleaning but does require public education
Public education
State schools, also known in the United States and Canada as public schools,In much of the Commonwealth, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, the terms 'public education', 'public school' and 'independent school' are used for private schools, that is, schools...

 on what materials are recyclable.

Source separation is the other extreme, where each material is cleaned and sorted prior to collection. This method requires the least post-collection sorting and produces the purest recyclates, but incurs additional operating cost
Operating cost
Operating costs can be described as the expenses which are related to the operation of a business, or to the operation of a device, component, piece of equipment or facility.-Business operating costs:...

s for collection of each separate material. An extensive public education program is also required, which must be successful if recyclate contamination is to be avoided.

Source separation used to be the preferred method due to the high sorting costs incurred by commingled collection. Advances in sorting technology (see sorting below), however, have lowered this overhead substantially—many areas which had developed source separation programs have since switched to comingled collection.

Sorting



Once commingled recyclates are collected and delivered to a central collection facility
Materials recovery facility
A materials recovery facility or materials reclamation facility or materials recycling facility is a specialized plant that receives, separates and prepares recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers...

, the different types of materials must be sorted. This is done in a series of stages, many of which involve automated processes such that a truck-load of material can be fully sorted in less than an hour. Some plants can now sort the materials automatically, known as single-stream recycling
Single-stream recycling
Single stream recycling refers to a system in which all paper fibers, plastics, metals, and other containers are mixed together in a collection truck, instead of being sorted into separate commodities by the resident and handled separately throughout the collection...

. A 30 percent increase in recycling rates has been seen in the areas where these plants exist.

Initially, the commingled recyclates are removed from the collection vehicle and placed on a conveyor belt spread out in a single layer. Large pieces of corrugated fiberboard and plastic bag
Plastic bag
A plastic bag, polybag, or pouch is a type of packaging made of thin, flexible, plastic film, nonwoven fabric, or plastic textile. Plastic bags are used for containing and transporting goods such as foods, produce, powders, ice, magazines, comic books, chemicals and waste.Most plastic bags are...

s are removed by hand at this stage, as they can cause later machinery to jam.

Next, automated machinery separates the recyclates by weight, splitting lighter paper and plastic from heavier glass and metal. Cardboard is removed from the mixed paper, and the most common types of plastic, PET
Polyethylene terephthalate
Polyethylene terephthalate , commonly abbreviated PET, PETE, or the obsolete PETP or PET-P, is a thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in synthetic fibers; beverage, food and other liquid containers; thermoforming applications; and engineering resins often in combination...

 (#1) and HDPE (#2), are collected. This separation is usually done by hand, but has become automated in some sorting centers: a spectroscopic
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

 scanner is used to differentiate between different types of paper and plastic based on the absorbed wavelengths, and subsequently divert each material into the proper collection channel.

Strong magnets are used to separate out ferrous metals, such as iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

, and tin-plated steel cans
Tin can
A tin can, tin , steel can, or a can, is a sealed container for the distribution or storage of goods, composed of thin metal. Many cans require opening by cutting the "end" open; others have removable covers. Cans hold diverse contents: foods, beverages, oil, chemicals, etc."Tin" cans are made...

 ("tin cans"). Non-ferrous metals are ejected by magnetic eddy currents in which a rotating magnetic field
Magnetic field
A magnetic field is a mathematical description of the magnetic influence of electric currents and magnetic materials. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude ; as such it is a vector field.Technically, a magnetic field is a pseudo vector;...

 induces
Electromagnetic induction
Electromagnetic induction is the production of an electric current across a conductor moving through a magnetic field. It underlies the operation of generators, transformers, induction motors, electric motors, synchronous motors, and solenoids....

 an electric current around the aluminium cans, which in turn creates a magnetic eddy current inside the cans. This magnetic eddy current is repulsed by a large magnetic field, and the cans are ejected from the rest of the recyclate stream.

Finally, glass must be sorted by hand based on its color: brown, amber, green or clear.

Recycling industrial waste



Although many government programs are concentrated on recycling at home, a large portion of waste is generated by industry. The focus of many recycling programs done by industry is the cost-effectiveness of recycling. The ubiquitous nature of cardboard packaging makes cardboard a commonly recycled waste product by companies that deal heavily in packaged goods, like retail stores, warehouse
Warehouse
A warehouse is a commercial building for storage of goods. Warehouses are used by manufacturers, importers, exporters, wholesalers, transport businesses, customs, etc. They are usually large plain buildings in industrial areas of cities and towns. They usually have loading docks to load and unload...

s, and distributor
Distributor
A distributor is a device in the ignition system of an internal combustion engine that routes high voltage from the ignition coil to the spark plugs in the correct firing order. The first reliable battery operated ignition was developed by Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co. and introduced in the...

s of goods. Other industries deal in niche or specialized products, depending on the nature of the waste materials that are present.

The glass, lumber, wood pulp
Wood pulp
Pulp is a lignocellulosic fibrous material prepared by chemically or mechanically separating cellulose fibres from wood, fibre crops or waste paper. Wood pulp is the most common raw material in papermaking.-History:...

, and paper manufacturers all deal directly in commonly recycled materials. However, old rubber tires
Rubber Tires
Rubber Tires is a 1927 silent film comedy adventure directed by Alan Hale, Sr. and produced by Cecil B. DeMille through his DeMille Pictures Corporation. The film was distributed by PDC. Its stars are Bessie Love, May Robson and Harrison Ford...

 may be collected and recycled by independent tire dealers for a profit.

Levels of metals recycling are generally low. In 2010, the International Resource Panel
International Resource Panel
The International Resource Panel is a scientific panel of experts that aims to help nations use natural resources sustainably without compromising economic growth and human needs...

, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its...

 (UNEP) published reports on metal stocks that exist within society Metal Stocks in Society: Scientific Synthesis 2010, International Resource Panel
International Resource Panel
The International Resource Panel is a scientific panel of experts that aims to help nations use natural resources sustainably without compromising economic growth and human needs...

, United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its...

and their recycling rates.The Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report 2010, International Resource Panel
International Resource Panel
The International Resource Panel is a scientific panel of experts that aims to help nations use natural resources sustainably without compromising economic growth and human needs...

, United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its...

The Panel reported that the increase in the use of metals during the 20th and into the 21st century has led to a substantial shift in metal stocks from below ground to use in applications within society above ground. For example, the in-use stock of copper in the USA grew from 73 to 238kg per capita between 1932 and 1999.

The report authors observed that, as metals are inherently recyclable, the metals stocks in society can serve as huge mines above ground. However, they found that the recycling rates of many metals are very low. The report warned that the recycling rates of some rare metals used in applications such as mobile phones, battery packs for hybrid cars and fuel cells, are so low that unless future end-of-life recycling rates are dramatically stepped up these critical metals will become unavailable for use in modern technology.

The military recycles some metals. The U.S. Navy's Ship Disposal Program uses ship breaking
Ship breaking
Ship breaking or ship demolition is a type of ship disposal involving the breaking up of ships for scrap recycling. Most ships have a lifespan of a few decades before there is so much wear that refitting and repair becomes uneconomical. Ship breaking allows materials from the ship, especially...

 to reclaim the steel of old vessels. Ships may also be sunk to create an artificial reef
Artificial reef
An artificial reef is a human-made underwater structure, typically built to promote marine life in areas with a generally featureless bottom, control erosion, block ship passage, or improve surfing....

. Uranium
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 is a very dense metal that has qualities superior to lead and titanium
Titanium
Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant transition metal with a silver color....

 for many military and industrial uses. The uranium
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 left over from processing it into nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s and fuel for nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

s is called depleted uranium
Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

, and it is used by all branches of the U.S. military use for armour-piercing shells and shielding.

The construction industry may recycle concrete and old road surface pavement, selling their waste materials for profit.

Some industries, like the renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

 industry and solar photovoltaic technology in particular, are being proactive in setting up recycling policies even before their is considerable volume to their waste streams, anticipating future demand during their rapid growth.

Recycling codes


In order to meet recyclers' needs while providing manufacturers a consistent, uniform system, a coding system is developed. The recycling code for plastics was introduced in 1988 by plastics industry through the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc
Society of the Plastics Industry
Founded in 1937, The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. is the trade association representing one of the largest manufacturing industries in the United States. SPIs members represent the entire plastics industry supply chain in the US, including processors, machinery and equipment manufacturers...

. Because municipal recycling programs traditionally have targeted packaging – primarily bottles and containers – the resin coding system
Resin identification code
The SPI resin identification coding system is a set of symbols placed on plastics to identify the polymer type. It was developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry in 1988, and is used internationally....

 offered a means of identifying the resin content of bottles and containers commonly found in the residential waste stream.

Cost-benefit analysis

Environmental effects of recycling
Material Energy savings Air pollution
Air pollution
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

 savings
Aluminium
Aluminium recycling
Aluminium recycling is the process by which scrap aluminium can be reused in products after its initial production. The process involves simply re-melting the metal, which is far less expensive and energy intensive than creating new aluminium through the electrolysis of aluminium oxide , which must...

 
95% 95%
Cardboard
Paper recycling
Paper recycling is the process of recovering waste paper and remaking it into new paper products. There are three categories of paper that can be used as feedstocks for making recycled paper: mill broke, pre-consumer waste, and post-consumer waste. Mill broke is paper trimmings and other paper...

 
24%
Glass
Glass recycling
Glass recycling is the process of turning waste glass into usable products. Glass waste should be separated by chemical composition, and then, depending on the end use and local processing capabilities, might also have to be separated into different colors. Many recyclers collect different colors...

 
5-30% 20%
Paper
Paper recycling
Paper recycling is the process of recovering waste paper and remaking it into new paper products. There are three categories of paper that can be used as feedstocks for making recycled paper: mill broke, pre-consumer waste, and post-consumer waste. Mill broke is paper trimmings and other paper...

 
40% 73%
Plastics
Plastic recycling
Plastic recycling is the process of recovering scrap or waste plastics and reprocessing the material into useful products, sometimes completely different in form from their original state. For instance, this could mean melting down soft drink bottles and then casting them as plastic chairs and tables...

 
70%
Steel
Ferrous metal recycling
Ferrous metals are able to be recycled with steel being one of the most recycled materials in the world,. Ferrous metals contain an appreciable percentage of iron and the addition of carbon and other substances creates steel....

 
60%


There is some debate over whether recycling is economically
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 efficient. Municipalities
Municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

 often see fiscal
Finance
"Finance" is often defined simply as the management of money or “funds” management Modern finance, however, is a family of business activity that includes the origination, marketing, and management of cash and money surrogates through a variety of capital accounts, instruments, and markets created...

 benefits from implementing recycling programs, largely due to the reduced landfill
Landfill
A landfill site , is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment...

 costs. A study conducted by the Technical University of Denmark
Technical University of Denmark
The Technical University of Denmark , often simply referred to as DTU, is a university just north of Copenhagen, Denmark. It was founded in 1829 at the initiative of Hans Christian Ørsted as Denmark's first polytechnic, and is today ranked among Europe's leading engineering institutions, and the...

 found that in 83 percent of cases, recycling is the most efficient method to dispose of household waste. However, a 2004 assessment by the Danish Environmental Assessment Institute concluded that incineration was the most effective method for disposing of drink containers, even aluminium ones.

Fiscal efficiency is separate from economic efficiency. Economic analysis of recycling includes what economists call externalities
Externality
In economics, an externality is a cost or benefit, not transmitted through prices, incurred by a party who did not agree to the action causing the cost or benefit...

, which are unpriced costs and benefits that accrue to individuals outside of private transactions. Examples include: decreased air pollution and greenhouse gases from incineration, reduced hazardous waste
Hazardous waste
A hazardous waste is waste that poses substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment. According to the U.S. environmental laws hazardous wastes fall into two major categories: characteristic wastes and listed wastes.Characteristic hazardous wastes are materials that are known...

 leaching from landfills, reduced energy consumption, and reduced waste
Waste
Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

 and resource
Resource
A resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced, typically of limited availability.Resource may also refer to:* Resource , substances or objects required by a biological organism for normal maintenance, growth, and reproduction...

 consumption, which leads to a reduction in environmentally damaging mining
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 and timber
Timber
Timber may refer to:* Timber, a term common in the United Kingdom and Australia for wood materials * Timber, Oregon, an unincorporated community in the U.S...

 activity. About 4000 mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

s are known, of these only a few hundred minerals in the world are relatively common. At current rates, current known reserves of phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

 will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years. Without mechanisms such as taxes or subsidies to internalize externalities, businesses will ignore them despite the costs imposed on society. To make such non-fiscal benefits economically relevant, advocates have pushed for legislative
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 action to increase the demand
Demand
- Economics :*Demand , the desire to own something and the ability to pay for it*Demand curve, a graphic representation of a demand schedule*Demand deposit, the money in checking accounts...

 for recycled materials. The United States Environmental Protection Agency
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...

 (EPA) has concluded in favor of recycling, saying that recycling efforts reduced the country's carbon emissions by a net 49 million metric tonnes in 2005. In the United Kingdom, the Waste and Resources Action Programme stated that Great Britain's recycling efforts reduce CO2 emissions
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 by 10-15 million tonnes a year. Recycling is more efficient in densely populated areas, as there are economies of scale
Economies of scale
Economies of scale, in microeconomics, refers to the cost advantages that an enterprise obtains due to expansion. There are factors that cause a producer’s average cost per unit to fall as the scale of output is increased. "Economies of scale" is a long run concept and refers to reductions in unit...

 involved.

Certain requirements must be met for recycling to be economically feasible and environmentally effective. These include an adequate source of recyclates, a system to extract those recyclates from the waste stream, a nearby factory
Factory
A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial building where laborers manufacture goods or supervise machines processing one product into another. Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production...

 capable of reprocessing the recyclates, and a potential demand for the recycled products. These last two requirements are often overlooked—without both an industrial market
Market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

 for production using the collected materials and a consumer market for the manufactured goods, recycling is incomplete and in fact only "collection".

Many economists favor a moderate level of government intervention to provide recycling services. Economists of this mindset probably view product disposal as an externality of production and subsequently argue government is most capable of alleviating such a dilemma. However, those of the laissez faire approach to municipal recycling see product disposal as a service that consumers value. A free-market approach is more likely to suit the preferences of consumers since profit-seeking businesses have greater incentive to produce a quality product or service than does government. Moreover, economists almost always advise against government intrusion in any market with little or no externalities.

Trade in recyclates


Certain countries trade in unprocessed recyclates. Some have complained that the ultimate fate of recyclates sold to another country is unknown and they may end up in landfills instead of reprocessed. According to one report, in America, 50–80 percent of computers destined for recycling are actually not recycled. There are reports of illegal-waste imports to China being dismantled and recycled solely for monetary gain, without consideration for workers' health or environmental damage. Though the Chinese government has banned these practices, it has not been able to eradicate them. In 2008, the prices of recyclable waste plummeted before rebounding in 2009. Cardboard averaged about £53/tonne from 2004–2008, dropped to £19/tonne, and then went up to £59/tonne in May 2009. PET plastic averaged about £156/tonne, dropped to £75/tonne and then moved up to £195/tonne in May 2009.
Certain regions have difficulty using or exporting as much of a material as they recycle. This problem is most prevalent with glass: both Britain and the U.S. import large quantities of wine bottled in green glass. Though much of this glass is sent to be recycled, outside the American Midwest there is not enough wine production to use all of the reprocessed material. The extra must be downcycled into building materials or re-inserted into the regular waste stream.

Similarly, the northwestern United States
Northwestern United States
The Northwestern United States comprise the northwestern states up to the western Great Plains regions of the United States, and consistently include the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, to which part of southeast Alaska is also sometimes included...

 has difficulty finding markets for recycled newspaper, given the large number of pulp mill
Pulp mill
A pulp mill is a manufacturing facility that converts wood chips or other plant fibre source into a thick fibre board which can be shipped to a paper mill for further processing. Pulp can be manufactured using mechanical, semi-chemical or fully chemical methods...

s in the region as well as the proximity to Asian markets. In other areas of the U.S., however, demand for used newsprint has seen wide fluctuation.

In some U.S. states, a program called RecycleBank
RecycleBank
Recyclebank is a company headquartered in New York City with offices in Philadelphia and London that rewards people for taking everyday green actions with discounts and deals from thousands of local and national businesses. It does this by measuring the amount of material each home recycles then...

 pays people with to recycle, receiving money from local municipalities for the reduction in landfill space which must be purchased. It uses a single stream process in which all material is automatically sorted.

Benefits and criticism


Much of the difficulty inherent in recycling comes from the fact that most products are not designed with recycling in mind. The concept of sustainable design
Sustainable design
Sustainable design is the philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment, and services to comply with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability.-Intentions:The intention of sustainable design is to "eliminate negative environmental...

 aims to solve this problem, and was laid out in the book "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things is a 2002 non-fiction book by German chemist Michael Braungart and U.S. architect William McDonough. It is a manifesto detailing how to achieve their Cradle to Cradle Design model. It calls for a radical change in industry: a switch from a...

" by architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 William McDonough and chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

 Michael Braungart. They suggest that every product (and all packaging they require) should have a complete "closed-loop" cycle mapped out for each component—a way in which every component will either return to the natural ecosystem through biodegradation
Biodegradation
Biodegradation or biotic degradation or biotic decomposition is the chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria or other biological means...

 or be recycled indefinitely.

As with environmental economics, care must be taken to ensure a complete view of the costs and benefits involved. For example, cardboard packaging for food products is more easily recycled than plastic, but is heavier to ship and may result in more waste from spoilage.

The following are criticisms of many popular points used for recycling.

Energy


The amount of energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

 saved through recycling depends upon the material being recycled. Some, such as aluminum, save a great deal, while others may not save any. The Energy Information Administration
Energy Information Administration
The U.S. Energy Information Administration is the statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. EIA collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and...

 (EIA) states on its website that "a paper mill uses 40 percent less energy to make paper from recycled paper than it does to make paper from fresh lumber." Some critics argue that it takes more energy to produce recycled products than it does to dispose of them in traditional landfill
Landfill
A landfill site , is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment...

 methods, since the curbside collection
Kerbside collection
Curbside collection, or kerbside collection is a service provided to households, typically in urban and suburban areas, of removing household waste...

 of recyclables often requires a second waste truck
Waste collection vehicle
Garbage truck refers to a truck specially designed to collect small quantities of waste and haul the collected waste to a solid waste treatment facility. Other common names for this type of truck include trash truck and dump truck in the United States, and bin wagon, dustcart, dustbin lorry, bin...

. However, recycling proponents point out that a second timber or logging truck is eliminated when paper is collected for recycling, so the net energy consumption is the same.

It is difficult to determine the exact amount of energy consumed or produced in waste disposal processes. How much energy is used in recycling depends largely on the type of material being recycled and the process used to do so. Aluminium
Aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

 is generally agreed to use far less energy when recycled rather than being produced from scratch. The EPA states that "recycling aluminum cans, for example, saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from its virgin source, bauxite
Bauxite
Bauxite is an aluminium ore and is the main source of aluminium. This form of rock consists mostly of the minerals gibbsite Al3, boehmite γ-AlO, and diaspore α-AlO, in a mixture with the two iron oxides goethite and hematite, the clay mineral kaolinite, and small amounts of anatase TiO2...

." In 2009 more than half of all aluminium cans produced came from recycled aluminium.
“Every year, millions of tons of materials are being exploited from the earth's crust, and processed into consumer and capital goods. After decades to centuries, most of these materials are "lost". With the exception of some pieces of art or religious relics, they are no longer engaged in the consumption process. Where are they? Recycling is only an intermediate solution for such materials, although it does prolong the residence time in the anthroposphere. For thermodynamic reasons, however, recycling cannot prevent the final need for an ultimate sink” (Brunner, 1999, p. 1).

Economist Steven Landsburg has suggested that the sole benefit of reducing landfill space is trumped by the energy needed and resulting pollution from the recycling process. Others, however, have calculated through life cycle assessment
Life cycle assessment
A life-cycle assessment is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life from-cradle-to-grave A life-cycle assessment (LCA, also known as life-cycle analysis, ecobalance, and cradle-to-grave analysis) is a technique to assess environmental impacts...

 that producing recycled paper uses less energy and water than harvesting, pulping, processing, and transporting virgin trees. When less recycled paper is used, additional energy is needed to create and maintain farmed forests until these forests are as self-sustainable as virgin forests.

Other studies have shown that recycling in itself is inefficient to perform the “decoupling” of economic development from the depletion of non-renewable raw materials that is necessary for sustainable development. When global consumption of a natural resource grows by more than 1 percent per annum, its depletion is inevitable , and the best recycling can do is to delay it by a number of years. Nevertheless, if this decoupling can be achieved by other means, so that consumption of the resource is reduced below 1 percent per annum, then recycling becomes indispensable—indeed recycling rates above 80 percent are required for a significant slowdown of the resource depletion.

Costs


The amount of money actually saved through recycling depends on the efficiency of the recycling program used to do it. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance argues that the cost of recycling depends on various factors around a community that recycles, such as landfill fee
Gate fee
A gate fee is the charge levied upon a given quantity of waste received at a waste processing facility.In the case of a landfill it is generally levied to offset the cost of opening, maintaining and eventually closing the site. It may also include any landfill tax which is applicable in the region...

s and the amount of disposal that the community recycles. It states that communities start to save money when they treat recycling as a replacement for their traditional waste system rather than an add-on to it and by "redesigning their collection schedules and/or trucks."

In some cases, the cost of recyclable materials also exceeds the cost of raw materials. Virgin plastic resin costs 40 percent less than recycled resin. Additionally, a United States Environmental Protection Agency
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...

 (EPA) study that tracked the price of clear glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 from July 15 to August 2, 1991, found that the average cost per ton ranged from $40 to $60, while a USGS report shows that the cost per ton of raw silica sand from years 1993 to 1997 fell between $17.33 and $18.10.

In a 1996 article for The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, John Tierney
John Tierney (journalist)
John Marion Tierney is a journalist and author who has worked for the New York Times since 1990.-Career and background:...

 argued that it costs more money to recycle the trash of New York City than it does to dispose of it in a landfill. Tierney argued that the recycling process employs people to do the additional waste disposal, sorting, inspecting, and many fees are often charged because the processing costs used to make the end product are often more than the profit from its sale. Tierney also referenced a study conducted by the Solid Waste Association of North America
Solid Waste Association of North America
For nearly 50 years, The Solid Waste Association of North America, has been a professional association in the solid waste management field...

 (SWANA) that found in the six communities involved in the study, "all but one of the curbside recycling programs, and all the composting operations and waste-to-energy
Waste-to-energy
Waste-to-energy or energy-from-waste is the process of creating energy in the form of electricity or heat from the incineration of waste source. WtE is a form of energy recovery...

 incinerators, increased the cost of waste disposal."

Tierney also points out that "the prices paid for scrap materials are a measure of their environmental value as recyclables. Scrap aluminum fetches a high price because recycling it consumes so much less energy than manufacturing new aluminum."

However, comparing the market cost of recyclable material to the cost of new raw materials ignores economic externalities - the costs that are currently not counted by the market. Creating a new piece of plastic, for instance, may cause more pollution and be less sustainable than recycling a similar piece of plastic, but these factors will not be counted in market cost. A life cycle assessment
Life cycle assessment
A life-cycle assessment is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life from-cradle-to-grave A life-cycle assessment (LCA, also known as life-cycle analysis, ecobalance, and cradle-to-grave analysis) is a technique to assess environmental impacts...

 can be used to determine the levels of externalities and decide whether the recycling may be worthwhile despite unfavorable market costs. Alternatively, legal means (such as a carbon tax
Carbon tax
A carbon tax is an environmental tax levied on the carbon content of fuels. It is a form of carbon pricing. Carbon is present in every hydrocarbon fuel and is released as carbon dioxide when they are burnt. In contrast, non-combustion energy sources—wind, sunlight, hydropower, and nuclear—do not...

) can be used to bring externalities into the market, so that the market cost of the material becomes close to the true cost.

In 2003, the city of Santa Clarita, California
Santa Clarita, California
Santa Clarita is the fourth largest city in Los Angeles County, California, United States and the twenty-fourth largest city in the state of California. The 2010 US Census reported the city's population grew 16.7% from the year 2000 to 176,320 residents. It is located about northwest of downtown...

 was paying $28 per ton to put garbage into a landfill. The city then adopted a mandatory diaper recycling program that cost $1,800 per ton.

In a 2007 article, Michael Munger, the Chair of Political Science at Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

, wrote, "... if recycling is more expensive than using new materials, it can't possibly be efficient... There is a simple test for determining whether something is a resource... or just garbage... If someone will pay you for the item, it's a resource... But if you have to pay someone to take the item away... then the item is garbage."

In a 2002 article for The Heartland Institute, Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute
Cato Institute
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane, who remains president and CEO, and Charles Koch, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc., the largest privately held...

, wrote, "If it costs X to deliver newly manufactured plastic to the market, for example, but it costs 10X to deliver reused plastic to the market, we can conclude the resources required to recycle plastic are 10 times more scarce than the resources required to make plastic from scratch. And because recycling is supposed to be about the conservation of resources, mandating recycling under those circumstances will do more harm than good."

Working conditions


The recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment in India and China generates a significant amount of pollution. Informal recycling in an underground economy of these countries has generated an environmental and health disaster. High levels of lead (Pb), polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated dioxins and furans, as well as polybrominated dioxins and furans (PCDD/Fs and PBDD/Fs) concentrated in the air, bottom ash
Bottom ash
Bottom ash refers to part of the non-combustible residues of combustion. In an industrial context, it usually refers to coal combustion and comprises traces of combustibles embedded in forming clinkers and sticking to hot side walls of a coal-burning furnace during its operation. The portion of...

, dust, soil, water and sediments in areas surrounding recycling sites. Critics also argue that while recycling may create jobs, they are often jobs with low wages and terrible working conditions.
These jobs are sometimes considered to be make-work job
Make-work job
A make-work job is a job that has less final benefit than the job costs to support. Make-work jobs are similar to workfare but are publicly offered on the job market and have otherwise normal employment requirements .A classic...

s that don't produce as much as the cost of wages to pay for those jobs.
In areas without many environmental regulations and/or worker protections, jobs involved in recycling such as ship breaking
Ship breaking
Ship breaking or ship demolition is a type of ship disposal involving the breaking up of ships for scrap recycling. Most ships have a lifespan of a few decades before there is so much wear that refitting and repair becomes uneconomical. Ship breaking allows materials from the ship, especially...

 can result in deplorable conditions for both workers and the surrounding communities

Environmental impact



Economist
Economist
An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

 Steven Landsburg
Steven Landsburg
Steven E. Landsburg is an American professor of economics at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. From 1989 to 1995, he taught at Colorado State University.-Education:...

, author of a paper entitled "Why I Am Not an Environmentalist," has claimed that paper recycling
Paper recycling
Paper recycling is the process of recovering waste paper and remaking it into new paper products. There are three categories of paper that can be used as feedstocks for making recycled paper: mill broke, pre-consumer waste, and post-consumer waste. Mill broke is paper trimmings and other paper...

 actually reduces tree populations. He argues that because paper companies have incentives to replenish the forests they own, large demands for paper lead to large forests. Conversely, reduced demand for paper leads to fewer "farmed" forests. Similar arguments were expressed in a 1995 article for The Free Market.
When foresting companies cut down trees, more are planted in their place. Most paper comes from pulp forests grown specifically for paper production. Many environmentalist
Environmentalist
An environmentalist broadly supports the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities"...

s point out, however, that "farmed" forests are inferior to virgin forests in several ways. Farmed forests are not able to fix the soil as quickly as virgin forests, causing widespread soil erosion and often requiring large amounts of fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

 to maintain while containing little tree and wild-life biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 compared to virgin forests. Also, the new trees planted are not as big as the trees that were cut down, and the argument that there will be "more trees" is not compelling to forestry advocates when they are counting saplings.

Wood from tropical rainforests is rarely harvested for paper. Rainforest deforestation is mainly caused by population pressure demands for land.

Possible income loss and social costs



In some prosperous and many less prosperous countries in the world, the traditional job of recycling is performed by the entrepreneurial poor such as the karung guni
Karung guni
The practice of Karung guni is common in Singapore. Its practitioners are a modern form of rag and bone men that visit residences door-to-door. They make visits in carts, collecting old newspapers and other unwanted items. These will be resold at specialized markets and eventually recycled or reused...

, Zabaleen, the rag and bone man
Rag and bone man
Rag and bone man is a British phrase for a junk dealer. Historically the phrase referred to an individual who would travel the streets of a city with a horsedrawn cart, and would collect old rags for making fabric and paper, bones for making glue, scrap iron for recycling, and assorted miscellany...

, waste picker
Waste picker
A waste picker, recycler, rag picker, salvager, binner, informal resource recoverer, poacher, or a scavenger, is a person who salvages recyclable elements from mixed waste...

, and junk man
Junk man
Junk man is the term for a person that buys, trades, or collects disparate items that are considered of little or no value to their owners...

. With the creation of large recycling organizations that may be profitable, either by law or economies of scale
Economies of scale
Economies of scale, in microeconomics, refers to the cost advantages that an enterprise obtains due to expansion. There are factors that cause a producer’s average cost per unit to fall as the scale of output is increased. "Economies of scale" is a long run concept and refers to reductions in unit...

, the poor are more likely to be driven out of the recycling and the remanufacturing
Remanufacturing
Remanufacturing is the process of disassembly and recovery at the module level and, eventually, at the component level. It requires the repair or replacement of worn out or obsolete components and modules. Parts subject to degradation affecting the performance or the expected life of the whole are...

 market. To compensate for this loss of income to the poor, a society may need to create additional forms of societal programs to help support the poor. Like the parable of the broken window
Parable of the broken window
The parable of the broken window was introduced by Frédéric Bastiat in his 1850 essay to illustrate why destruction, and the money spent to recover from destruction, is actually not a net-benefit to society...

, there is a net loss to the poor and possibly the whole of a society to make recycling artificially profitable through law. However, as seen in Brazil and Argentina, waste pickers/informal recyclers are able to work alongside governments, in (semi)funded cooperatives, allowing informal recycling to be legitimized as a paying government job.

Because the social support of a country is likely less than the loss of income to the poor doing recycling, there is a greater chance that the poor will come in conflict with the large recycling organizations. This means fewer people can decide if certain waste is more economically reusable in its current form rather than being reprocessed. Contrasted to the recycling poor, the efficiency of their recycling may actually be higher for some materials because individuals have greater control over what is considered “waste.”

One labor-intensive underused waste is electronic and computer waste. Because this waste may still be functional and wanted mostly by the poor, the poor may sell or use it at a greater efficiency than large recyclers.

Many recycling advocates believe that this laissez-faire
Laissez-faire
In economics, laissez-faire describes an environment in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including restrictive regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies....

 individual-based recycling does not cover all of society’s recycling needs. Thus, it does not negate the need for an organized recycling program. Local government often consider the activities of the recycling poor as contributing to property blight.

Public participation in recycling programmes


"Between 1960 and 2000, the world production of plastic resins increased 25-fold, while recovery of the material remained below 5%." Many studies have addressed recycling behaviour and strategies to encourage community involvement in recycling programmes. It has been argued that recycling behaviour is not natural because it requires a focus and appreciation for long term planning, whereas humans have evolved to be sensitive to short term survival goals; and that to overcome this innate predisposition, the best solution would be to use social pressure to compel participation in recycling programmes. However, recent studies have concluded that social pressure is unviable in this context. One reason for this is that social pressure functions well in small group sizes of 50 to 150 indiviudals (common to nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples) but not in communities numbering in the millions, as we see today. Another reason is that individual recycling does not take place in the public view.
In a study done by social psychologist Shawn Burn, it was found that personal contact with individuals within a neighborhood is the most effective way to increase recycling within a community. In his study, he had 10 block leaders talk to their neighbors and convince them to recycle. A comparison group was sent fliers promoting recycling. It was found that the neighbors that were personally contacted by their block leaders recycled much more than the group without personal contact. As a result of this study, Shawn Burn believes that personal contact within a small group of people is an important factor in encouraging recycling. Another study done by Stuart Oskamp examines the effect of neighbors and friends on recycling. It was found in his studies that people who had friends and neighbors that recycled were much more likely to also recycle than those who didn’t have friends and neighbors that recycled.

Garbage that is claimed to be recycled actually gets put into landfills instead


In 2002, WNYC
WNYC
WNYC is a set of call letters shared by a pair of co-owned, non-profit, public radio stations located in New York City.WNYC broadcasts on the AM band at 820 kHz, and WNYC-FM is at 93.9 MHz. Both stations are members of National Public Radio and carry distinct, but similar news/talk programs...

 reported that 40% of the garbage that New York City residents separated for recycling actually ended up in landfills.

See also


  • Index of recycling topics
    Index of recycling topics
    -C:- Computer recycling- Computer technology for developing areas- Container-deposit legislation- Creative reuse-E:- E-Cycling - Electronic Waste Recycling Fee- eDay- Extended producer responsibility-P:...

  • E-Cycling (recycling of electronic components)
  • Plastic recycling
    Plastic recycling
    Plastic recycling is the process of recovering scrap or waste plastics and reprocessing the material into useful products, sometimes completely different in form from their original state. For instance, this could mean melting down soft drink bottles and then casting them as plastic chairs and tables...

  • Recycling bin
    Recycling bin
    A recycling bin is a container used to hold recyclables before they are taken to recycling centers. Recycling bins exist in various sizes for use in homes, offices, and large public facilities...

  • Sustainability
    Sustainability
    Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

  • Recycling (ecological)
  • 2000s commodities boom
    2000s commodities boom
    The 2000s commodities boom is the rise in many physical commodity prices which occurred during the decade of the 2000s , following the Great Commodities Depression of the 1980s and 1990s...



Further reading

  • Tierney, John. (1996). Recycling Is Garbage. The New York Times
    The New York Times
    The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

    .
  • Ackerman, Frank. (1997). Why Do We Recycle?: Markets, Values, and Public Policy. Island Press. ISBN 1-55963-504-5, 9781559635042
  • Porter, Richard C. (2002). The economics of waste. Resources for the Future
    Resources for the Future
    Resources for the Future is a nonprofit organization that conducts independent research into environmental, energy, and natural resource issues, primarily via economics and other social sciences. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., RFF performs research around the world...

    . ISBN 1-891853-42-2, 9781891853425

External links