Why Its Cheaper To Recycle Than To Produce New Raw Materials

by Muna wa Wanjiru

To recycle means to save virgin raw materials and to re-process already used products; recycling has presently become almost a stand point one takes towards the environmental problems on our planet. All recycle ideas are common things throughout our modern history. Even before, in ancient times, metallic scraps were recovered for melting; then, when awareness increased that to recycle paper means to save forests, Britain founded the first waste paper association in the modern history of the world.

Recycle ideas were more appreciated after the two world wars. In World War II all countries involved in the conflagration collected metals from their citizens, and in Japan, for instance, the effort of recycling materials continued even after hostilities ended. In time as the energy cost was increased in 1970s, companies were forced to invest more in recycling programs.

If a company recycles aluminum it uses only five per cent of the total amount of energy required to make a virgin production. Recycling plastics saves over 70% energy as compared to the manufacturing process, while recycled paper requires 40% less energy. Raw materials recovered from collecting companies are purer, transport is much cheaper, since for example bauxite or aluminum must be brought from Brazil.

So the environmental, social and most of the economic costs are reduced drastically by recycle techniques. If in the past recycle companies accepted only certain materials such plastic or metallic scraps, over the last years a wider range of products have started to be accepted for recycling.

In normal conditions, it's much more cheaper to recycle than to produce new raw materials. The fact is that all recycle techniques use energy for processing, transport, not to mention the water quantity necessary to cool down the machines. Recycling has different costs depending on the collecting methods; thus, collective recycling costs about $60 per ton, while separate collecting is more that $150 per ton.

Elements like mercury are very hard to manage, so the European Union banned the export of mercury in an effort to avoid accidents. And even if there are voices that claim, mercury recycling is much more difficult and expensive, the ecologists' arguments remain valid: we should support the idea of recycling even when it isn't “profitable”!

Batteries make another special case as they contain toxic heavy metals so they are both profitable for collecting companies and also protect natural environment; yet size and battery type variations make the recycle effort more difficult. Older batteries contained mercury and cadmium, toxic substances that required safe manipulation, whereas car batteries contain acid and are easier to recycle or even to recharge.

Another ecological problem is to dispose of old electrical equipment such as mobile phones and computers. The recycling process is hindered since all components must be separated on categories. Dismantling can also bring serious profits to collecting and recycle companies as most electronics contain small amounts of copper and gold, hence, we've got another good reason to reuse waste products.