One of the most serious threats to the ecosystem and the wellbeing of all species on Earth is pollution. Contaminated air, water, and soil kill three times as many people as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined; these pollutants kill three times as many people as obesity, alcohol, and traffic accidents combined. The most serious issue is air pollution, which accounts for approximately one out of every ten premature deaths worldwide. To say the least, these figures are alarming. For a more sustainable and healthier society, better waste management is essential.
Recycling is one of the simplest ways to reduce pollution. Waste materials are recycled into new materials and artefacts. It is the third step in the ‘Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle’ waste hierarchy and an important part of environmental cleanup. This article investigates how recycling can aid in pollution reduction.
How Does Recycling Help Reduce Pollution?
1. A reduction in pollutant levels in general
Recycling paper reduces air pollution by 73 percent and water pollution by 35 percent, according to study from the University of Central Oklahoma. Steel recycling eliminates 97 percent of mining waste generated during the production of virgin resources, as well as 86 percent and 76 percent of air and water pollution, respectively. Furthermore, using recovered glass reduces mining waste by 80% and reduces air pollution by 20%.
2. It safeguards ecosystems
Recycling lowers the need for additional products to be grown, harvested, and extracted from the ground. As a result, the harmful disruption and damage to the natural environment is reduced. It implies fewer forests will be cut down, wild creatures will be less damaged or displaced, rivers will not be diverted, and so soil, water, and air pollution will be reduced. Furthermore, if more plastics are recycled, less of them will end up in ocean waters, endangering marine life.
3. It is energy efficient.
Making items out of recycled materials uses less energy than making products out of raw materials. Because of the significant energy differential, there is less pollution. Creating fresh aluminium from recycled cans and foil, for example, consumes 95 percent less energy than producing it from scratch. In the case of steel, the percentage is 70%. Saving energy means less strain on the power system, which means less carbon is released at the power plant as a result of excessive energy consumption.
4. It lowers the requirement for additional raw materials.
Recycling minimises the need to grow, harvest, and remove raw resources from the earth for further products, as previously stated. As a result, if more is recycled, the raw materials used to make these products will not be touched for a long time. This is what a decrease in the need for more raw resources entails. When these raw commodities are hunted, such as forests, the vulnerable people who live nearby suffer as well, not to mention the corresponding water systems.
5. It helps to preserve natural resources.
The goal of pollution prevention is to protect natural resources. Recycling is a fantastic tool for creating new products while also reducing pollution and protecting natural resources. Recycling paper and wood, for example, helps to save trees and forests.
Recycling plastic reduces the amount of new plastic produced, which is good for the environment, especially since plastics are made from hydrocarbons, which harm the environment greatly. Metal recycling could reduce the need for dangerous, expensive, and environmentally destructive mining and extraction of new metal ores.
Who are the biggest polluters?
This is a difficult topic to answer because there are so many industries that contribute to global pollution in many ways.
1. Industrial facilities and manufacturing operations, particularly tanneries, lead smelting, mining and ore processing, as well as chemical and product production, rank first in terms of emissions. Many of these businesses use numerous harmful compounds containing components like cadmium, lead, mercury, and chromium in the processing of raw materials to achieve the end product. These contaminants can contaminate the water we drink and the food we consume by settling in subsurface fluids and soil. Emissions of different gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect and air pollution, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulphur, are also byproducts of such production processes.
2. Smog clouds and poor air quality in cities are mostly caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. This covers both fossil-fuel-fired power plants and emissions from automobiles and other vehicles. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, lead, dust particles, and volatile organic compounds are released into the air as a result of combustion, resulting in smog clouds in many major cities across the world. In the United States, automobiles account for 75% of carbon monoxide pollution, whereas transportation as a whole accounts for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and dust particles are all released when charcoal and wood are burned to generate heat. This is a major issue in low-income countries, since the majority of the energy produced is used for heating.
3. Agriculture is yet another major source of pollution in the world. Crop cultivation necessitates the application of herbicides and fertilisers, which damage the soil over time. They also drink from the ground, poisoning reservoirs and rivers. Livestock farming also depletes scarce water resources, can lead to overgrazing, and is the primary factor for the destruction of most forests.
Raising them also causes pollution in the air. Raising cattle for food, for example, accounts for 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions due to the vast amounts of methane released into the atmosphere. Cattle are the animal species that produce the highest emissions, accounting for around 65 percent of all emissions in the livestock sector.
4. With incorrect waste management and usage of plastic, humans are contributing to both local and global pollution. Every day, new loads of waste arrive at landfills, ready to be buried in the earth. The concept behind landfills is to bury waste beneath the ground so it will disintegrate, however the majority of the waste that winds up in them won’t degrade for hundreds of years. Landfills are not only inefficient in terms of waste management, but they are also significant polluters. If decomposing waste seeps into groundwater streams, it could contaminate sources of safe drinking water. As a consequence of the decomposition of organic materials, landfills also produce gases like methane. Methane is a well-known greenhouse gas that traps heat 30 times more effectively than carbon dioxide.
How Does Recycling Aid in Pollution Reduction?
Now that we’ve established the amount to which we’re contaminating our environment, let’s look at how our recycling efforts can mitigate those consequences.
Recycling will not be able to eliminate the problems created by fossil fuel combustion and pollution in agriculture, but it can help to alleviate them. Minerals such as oil, aluminium, lead, copper, and other metals are extracted and processed in plastic manufacturing and mining operations. This has a substantial negative impact on the ecosystem, including air, soil, and water.
Metals, in particular, can help to minimise pollution because they do not decay over time and can be recycled multiple times. Increasing recycling rates minimises the amount of raw materials used and eliminates a large chunk of the processing. Recycling aluminium, for example, saves around 95% of the energy required to produce aluminium from scratch.
Plastics have a similar story to tell. The cost of replacing a bottle with one made of recycled plastic is reduced by 60%. Recycling reduces pollution by lowering contaminated water and pollutants produced during energy production, as well as saving energy and water.
Recycling can also help to reduce the demand for natural resource depletion. Currently, 79% of all plastic trash is disposed of in landfills, with only 9% recycled. Single-use plastic bottles and packaging contribute significantly to this trash, which is largely made up of recyclable plastics like PET and HDPE. Plastic recycling rates will help to reduce pollution in our environment, particularly in the oceans, while also cutting manufacturing costs for new goods that help to protect the planet’s natural resources.
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