The importance of recycling materials when we are finished with them has for some time now been a message that people are keen to get out there. But for those of us who have come to the debate at this late stage, one could be forgiven for thinking it was a purely political argument. Why are we talking about recycling at all?
• Certain materials – not least paper and plastic – cannot be made from scratch without using materials that we take out of our planet. Taking these materials can affect the planet in many undesirable ways and, equally concerning, they are neither self-replenishing nor possible to manufacture.
• That means once they are gone, they’re gone. When someone talks of non-renewable resources, they mean things like the petroleum required to make plastic, or the trees required to make paper from scratch. You can replant trees – but you’ll have noticed they take a while to grow – but you can’t put petroleum back.
• Once you have taken those resources out of the earth, that’s not the end of the deal. The process of turning them into something else – petroleum into plastic – takes a process that costs money and requires a lot of energy, which in itself will often come from non-renewable sources.
The cycle of creating these materials from scratch, then, adds up to a false economy which will always leave the planet poorer. Without even mentioning the controversial topic of global warming, it is instantly clear just how recycling has become so necessary, and such a burning issue.