Recycling is more than just extracting metals from discarded computers and electronics equipment. Recycling keeps these materials out of landfills in first world countries. In turn, it provides raw materials to developing countries such as China. He notes as China becomes more industrialized it will generate more waste and will need an infrastructure to handle the large amount of post-consumer recycling.
Collecting new arisings, or end-of-life products is the first step in recycling. The second step is transforming old or new 'scrap' into new secondary raw materials that can be fed back into the manufacturing process. Recycling conserves raw materials. It also saves energy and protects the environment.
A Timeless Tradition ...
The world is moving steadily into the age of conservation with recycling as an integral part. And yet recycling is not new. It is as old as humanity and may well have been born when a stone age hunter splintered his flint axe and realised that the fragments would make excellent arrowheads... But it truly came into its own with the industrial revolution. Redundant metals, ferrous and non ferrous, became standard materials for the metallurgical industries. Old paper could be reduced to its original pulp form and so made into new paper.
Today, this industry is fully international. It is responsible for collecting, sorting, processing and marketing a vast range of materials - the by-products of the manufacturing industries and end-of-life consumer products. These secondary materials are produced to critical specifications and marketed to industries around the globe. International trade of secondary materials is necessary to supply steelworks, foundries, paper mills, textiles industry and rubber etc. with feedstock material for further environmentally sound production. The industry employs the skills of hundreds of thousands of men and women as well as using a great armoury of sophisticated machinery.
BIR Facts and Figures: 1.5 million employees in more than 50 countries an annual turnover exceeding 160 billion US dollars the industry processes over 600 million tonnes of commodities
The pattern of materials use is in theory circular - a sort of perpetual motion, with primary substances being mined or harvested and made into products which eventually become redundant and are then recycled into the manufacturing process. Without recycling, the circle merely becomes a series of events without a logical resolution. Potentially useful materials become a hazard rather than being retained as a resource.
Recycling contributes to a better environment
Using secondary materials involves substantial energy savings when compared with primary production.
Secondary production is less polluting than primary production. Producing from recycled paper means 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution. Producing from recycled steel means 86% less air pollution.
An international business:
Secondary material is not available uniformly around the world; it is transported on a considerable scale from areas where it is abundant to regions where it is in demand. A third of the 600 million tonnes of materials processed by the recycling industry annually is traded internationally.
A capital intensive business:
Creating employment: More than 1.5 million people are directly employed by the recycling industry world-wide.