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Why Recycle - Recycling 101

I’m the first to say that recycling isn’t perfect, in fact, it's quite far from it. But there are a lot of benefits now and what we should be aiming for in the future.

So welcome to the first instalment of Recycling 101 - Why Recycle.

Recycling 101 is a blog series that goes through the basics of recycling, waste and composting so that you can move through the world with a little more understanding of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Better yet, if you're responsible for the waste and recycling in your organisation these articles can be shared in your slack channel, online bulletin board or company newsletter. This will help your team build up their knowledge and demonstrate your organisation is serious and consistent about waste reduction.

Sign up here to get monthly email blasts with the next instalment, or share it with someone you think would benefit from it.

TLDR; The benefits of recycling are:

  • We use fewer resources
  • Save energy
  • Reduce our environmental impact
  • Reduce waste to landfill
  • Being more conscious when we shop
  • Paying less for disposal

Use less resources

Recycling keeps materials in use so that we maximise the use of our resources during their usable life. This reduces the need to take raw materials from the environment like forestry or mining.

Many materials will degrade each time it goes through the recycling process - but recycling gives them a second, third or fourth chance of being used before they reach a non-usable state. Paper is a great example of this and a commonly recycled material. As a fibre-based material each time it is recycled the fibres become smaller and smaller - on average its estimated paper can be recycled 4 - 6 times. As the materials degrade they’re used for lower quality paper products like tissues, napkins or toilet paper. At this point, the fibres are too small to be recycled and are better off composted.

Meanwhile, glass doesn’t reduce in quality when it's recycled and can be recycled endlessly if captured and separated correctly.

Conserve energy

Even when you account for the additional sorting and transporting materials, recycling uses less energy than raw materials. Whether it’s aluminium, paper, plastic or glass - it’s very energy-intensive to process them into the end materials.

Aluminium is the best performing material, it takes the same amount of energy to make one virgin can as it does to make 20 from recycled materials. Just one recycled can could power your TV for 2 hours.

  • Recycled paper uses 60% less energy than raw materials
  • Recycled plastic uses on average a third less energy than raw
  • Recycled glass uses 30% less energy than raw materials

Data from the EPA.

Reduce our environmental impact

Collecting natural materials has an impact on the environment from the energy and disruption required for mining or cutting down trees. Not to mention, the impact on biodiversity and animal homes from forestry, or the carbon those trees could have continued to absorb.

As we’ve established earlier, recycling reduces energy usage - carbon emissions are also reduced from the manufacturing process.

Reduce waste to landfill

We all know landfill is a problem, with the rate at which our waste continues to increase around the world, we’re going to run out of viable places to dump our rubbish. While we’re getting better at offsetting the environmental impacts of landfill, with the collection of gases to produce electricity - we can’t continue to pave over paradise to build landfills at the current rate.

Being more conscious when we shop

We treat things as we value them, low-value items like pens, hair ties, phone cases etc don’t hold a lot of value in our lives so we often lose them without a second thought - except that I now need to find a new pen.

Recycling helps to make us conscious of what we are buying from the get-go. Is this recyclable plastic? Are the eggs without the plastic worth the extra 30 cents? It all helps to build a more conscious mindset when we are shopping.

Get our easy supermarket swaps cheat sheet here.

Pay less for disposal

Hey, it's not all for the environment, recycling is often cheaper than landfill - or even free. This is a massive drawcard for many people or organisations, whatever the motivation it's all helping.


Recycling is imperfect, but with waste reduction practices, careful material selection and better infrastructure in our offices we can continue to reduce our environmental impact.

Next up in Recycling 101: Recycling Terms Glossary

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