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5 Reasons Recycling Beats Landfill – Better For The Planet & Your Wallet

26 June 2024

We’ve all been there – staring at an item, wondering whether to chuck it in the bin or make the effort to recycle it. But choosing to recycle really does make a difference, not just for the environment, but for our wallets too. Here are five solid reasons why recycling, especially when it comes to electronics, is the best option.

1. Conserving Our Natural Resources

Although we may want to believe so, the reality is that our planet’s resources aren’t infinite, and recycling helps us use them more wisely.

Extending Material Lifespans

Many everyday items contain materials that are in limited supply. By recycling, we’re giving these resources a second life. For instance, recycling one tonne of paper saves about 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water. 

This isn’t just about paper – think about the plastics in your packaging, the metals in your electronics, and the glass in your bottles. Each time we recycle these materials, we reduce the need to extract new raw resources.

Protecting Ecosystems

Mining and logging can severely damage natural habitats. In the UK, where we import most of our raw materials, our recycling efforts can help reduce global environmental impact. 

The UK’s recycling rate for waste from households was 44.4% in 2020, but there’s room for improvement to meet the EU target of 65% by 2035. By increasing our recycling rates, we can help protect forests, reduce mining activities, and preserve biodiversity both at home and abroad.

Creating a Circular Economy

The UK government’s Resources and Waste Strategy aims to move towards a more circular economy, where resources are used efficiently and waste is minimised. Recycling plays a crucial role in this transition. It’s not just about recycling more, but about designing products for longevity and recyclability from the start. This approach could save the UK economy some £80 billion per year, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

2. Saving Energy and Reducing Carbon Footprint

Recycling is a powerful tool in our fight against climate change, and the numbers speak for themselves.

Reducing Manufacturing Energy

Creating products from recycled materials typically requires less energy than starting from scratch. For example, recycling aluminium saves around 95% of the energy needed for primary production. 

This isn’t just true for metals – recycled plastic uses about 2/3 less energy than producing new plastic. When we scale this up to a national level, the energy savings are enormous.

Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Less energy use means fewer emissions. According to WRAP, UK recycling in 2018 saved 45 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, equivalent to taking 20 million cars off the road. 

To put this in perspective, the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 were about 451 million tonnes. So recycling alone cut emissions by about 10% – a significant contribution to our climate goals.

Minimising Landfill Methane

When organic waste decomposes in landfills, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2. By recycling paper, cardboard, and food waste, we can significantly reduce these emissions. In fact, if all biodegradable waste was recycled instead of sent to landfill, it could reduce UK methane emissions by up to 5%.

3. Reducing Landfill Usage

Blue bin with recycling sign on to show technology recycling

Landfills are more than just eyesores – they’re a growing problem in the UK, and recycling offers a solution.

Preserving Land

The UK is running out of landfill space so every item recycled helps extend the life of existing landfills. Consider this: the average UK household produces about a tonne of waste each year. If we could recycle even half of that, we’d significantly reduce the pressure on our landfills.

Preventing Environmental Contamination

Landfills can lead to soil and water pollution. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 sets strict rules for landfill management, but reducing waste through recycling is an even better solution. 

Landfills can leach harmful chemicals into groundwater and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. By recycling, we’re not just saving space – we’re protecting our water resources and air quality.

Long-term Cost Savings

While landfills might seem cheaper in the short term, they incur significant long-term costs. Local authorities spend millions each year on landfill taxes – money that could be better spent on community services if we increased our recycling rates.

4. Boosting the Economy

Recycling isn’t just good for the planet – it’s good for our wallets too, creating jobs and driving innovation.

Creating Jobs

The recycling industry is a significant employer. In the UK, it supports over 50,000 jobs and generates around £7 billion in annual sales. These aren’t just jobs in waste collection – they span sorting facilities, recycling plants, and even high-tech roles developing new recycling technologies. As we move towards a more circular economy, this sector is set to grow even further.

Generating Revenue

Many recyclable materials have value. Local authorities can offset waste management costs by selling these materials, potentially reducing council tax burdens. Even on a household level, some supermarkets offer rewards for recycling items like plastic bottles.

Driving Innovation

The push for better recycling is driving technological advancements. For instance, chemical recycling is emerging as a solution for hard-to-recycle plastics, opening up new economic opportunities. 

UK companies are at the forefront of developing AI-powered sorting systems, more efficient recycling processes, and even technologies to turn waste into energy. This innovation not only creates high-skilled jobs but also positions the UK as a leader in the green technology sector.

5. Proper Handling of Hazardous Materials

When it comes to electronics, proper recycling is crucial for both environmental and economic reasons.

Preventing Toxic Contamination

Electronic waste often contains hazardous materials like lead, mercury, and cadmium. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations require proper handling of these items to prevent environmental contamination. 

Improper disposal can lead to these toxins leaching into soil and water. By recycling electronics correctly, we’re protecting our ecosystems and public health.

Recovering Valuable Materials

Recycling electronics can recover precious metals and rare earth elements. It’s estimated that one tonne of smartphones contains about 300 times more gold than a tonne of gold ore.

 In addition to gold, electronics contain valuable amounts of silver, palladium, and copper. Recycling these materials reduces the need for environmentally damaging mining operations and provides a domestic source of these crucial resources.

Ensuring Legal Compliance

Under UK law, producers of electronics are responsible for financing the collection, treatment, and recovery of waste electrical equipment. Proper recycling helps ensure compliance with these regulations.

 For businesses, this isn’t just about avoiding fines – it’s about corporate social responsibility and building a positive brand image in an increasingly environmentally conscious market.

Conclusion: Making the Smart Choice

Every time we choose to recycle, we’re contributing to a more sustainable future. It’s about more than just reducing waste – it’s about conserving resources, saving energy, protecting our environment, and supporting our economy.

We all have the power to make a difference through our daily choices. The next time you’re about to bin something, take a moment to consider – could this be recycled instead? Small actions, when multiplied across millions of households, can lead to significant positive change.

For more information on responsibly recycling your old computers and electronics, visit Equipment HQ’s computer recycling page or contact us at +44 (0)1279 656 731.

 Let’s make smarter choices for our planet and our future!

 

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