What is recycling?

The recycling process involves waste materials being collected, sorted and made into new products and materials. The recycled product will often be the same thing it was before (a glass wine bottle, for example) but can also be "downcycled" into a new product or material (glass can be ground with other materials to make road surfacing). Why should we bother recycling? On a practical level, we have to recycle because we're running out of room to bury our rubbish: experts suggest UK landfill sites will be full by 2017. The main environmental benefit of recycling is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Manufacturing new products from recycled material rather than new virgin material almost always results in lower CO2 emissions. Making glass, for example, uses 300kg CO2 less per tonne of glass when you recycle old glass rather than using raw materials (because manufacturing virgin glass involves a carbon-intensive furnace process called calcination). Recycling waste also reduces the amount of methane generated from biodegradable waste - such as cardboard - breaking down in landfill. Although methane is released in relatively small quantities in the UK (2.3m tonnes a year), it is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Aside from cutting emissions that contribute to global warming, recycling has the benefit of preserving natural resources. Fewer trees need to be cut down, and fewer minerals and metals need to be extracted from mines. Even when a natural resource is renewable if managed sustainably - such as paper - harvesting it can still have negative environmental impacts. Forests planted for paper, for example, are often monoculture plantations which are typically much less species-rich than a natural forest. What about benefits for me? In the UK, recycling may eventually lead to a lower council tax bill. Local authorities have to pay more for sending rubbish to landfill every year - in 2009, councils across England spent £620m land-filling waste from homes. Figures obtained by consumer group Which? also suggest that if we recycled better - by contaminating less of our recycling with food waste, for example - we may one day save money on lower council tax bills. Is recycling really greener than alternatives like incineration? Yes, for most materials, according to an analysis commissioned by the government (pdf). In the case of paper and cardboard, glass, plastics, aluminium and steel, recycling produces fewer greenhouse gases than incineration. How does the UK compare to other countries on recycling? UK recycling rates currently stand at an average of 34.5% of all waste nationally, up from 11.2% in 2000-01. But EU targets mean that councils must encourage homeowners to recycle 40% by 2012 - and 50% by 2020. The UK is near the bottom of the European recycling league: in 2003, only Greece and Ireland put a greater percentage of their waste into landfill and incinerators. UK recycling rates are very similar to those in the US, where local authorities in 2007 recycled 33.4% of the waste they collected (pdf). Are fortnightly rubbish collections good or bad for recycling? The government's waste agency Wrap says fortnightly collections increase recycling rates. Research from the Local Government Association backs that up, and many councils with the highest recycling rates also operate fortnightly collections. What's better for the environment, kerbside or "comingled" collections? Kerbside collections are where householders separate different types of recycling material, such as glass and paper, while "comingled" means that all the material for a home's recycling goes into one box or bag, and is then sorted at a facility. Wrap says that kerbside collections, when possible, are the best choice for high quality recycled material and cost effectiveness. Some industry experts suggest that comingled collections increase recycling rates, but also increase the amount of contaminated material - cardboard splattered with curry sauce, say - which then ends up in landfill. Where does most of my recycling go? Much of the material that's sorted for recycling in the UK goes to Asian countries to be recycled into new materials and products. China is the main destination for paper and plastic, taking in much of the 4.7 million

the carbon savings are even greater. The transport emissions involved are small compared with the greenhouse gases produced when manufacturing glass from scratch. The same rule . It may seem counterintuitive. Prices for recycled materials have since stabilised and are now rising again. When you factor in the fact that cargo ships that arrive in the UK full of consumer goods often return to China carry material for recycling.that transport is responsible for very little of the CO2 emitted when making products . and aren't companies stockpiling it? Prices for recycled materials such as paper and plastic did fall dramatically in late 2008.provided you take at least two wine bottles and don't drive further than one kilometre. If you double up your trip for another purpose or recycle other materials while you're visiting the recycling centre.tonnes of paper (55% of our paper exports) and half a million tonnes of plastics exported (80% of plastic exports) in 2007.for example . Didn't prices drop for recycled materials. you're saving carbon by driving glass bottles to the bottle bank . but the carbon footprint of .shipping waste glass from the UK to Germany to recycle into new glass is actually lower than making new glass from virgin materials here in the UK. A government study in 2008 (pdf) calculated that sending British plastic and paper waste to China for recycling saves more CO2 than it emits. says it sees no evidence that stockpiling is happening now. the net carbon balance looks even better. Doesn't driving to the bottle bank release more CO2 than I save by recycling glass? No. .holds true for other materials. but so did prices for new raw materials. The government waste agency Wrap. Doesn't shipping materials overseas for recycling cancel out any carbon savings? No. According to recycling experts Best Foot Forward.

chemicals. To get started. they thought nothing of dropping empty soda cans here and there or putting cans of leftover paint right into their trash cans. many Dumptowners switched to natural. The garbage heap grew and began to smell.. the folks living here hadn't thought much about where waste went when they threw it out. eventually. Dumptowners paid special attention to hazardous waste and set up special collection points where people could drop off used chemicals. or click on the Dumptown Game. With the town's new image. sending toxic smoke into the air and making it hard for everyone to breathe. then made into new products. Finally. They learned to reuse other things—like washing out empty jars instead of throwing them away. that became a very BIG problem. they bought items at the store that weren't wrapped in extra packaging. and pesticides. For example. Sometimes it caught fire. just click on any section of Recycle City that you want to explore. and Recycle City was born.Just a few years ago. it needed a new name. And. but wherever they moved. They set up bins around town to collect glass. Because Dumptowners didn't know what happened to waste after it was thrown away. paper. Create your own Recycle City scavenger hunt or go to the Activities area and see other ways you can put Recycle City to use. they threw dangerous chemicals and poisons (hazardous waste) into the regular garbage (solid waste). And. because nobody believed recycling made a difference. and aluminum that could be converted back into raw materials. safe substitutes. they learned to recycle.. When you leave this place you'll leave knowing much more about what you can do to help protect the environment. Have fun! . paints. Things that easily could have been reused or recycled were tossed in the trash. this place was called Dumptown. and cleansers for safe handling and proper disposal. For years. so there would be less to throw away. They learned to reduce the amount of waste they threw away. At the dump. Dumptowners tried moving away from the mess. Travel around Recycle City and find out what folks here are doing to reduce waste and make the environment better. they closed the old city dump and built a new solid waste landfill outside of town. They knew they had to fix it. Instead of buying environmentally harmful cleaning products. the problem was still there—on the ground and in the air.

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