Population increase has diverse impacts on the wellbeing of the environment. Essentially, humans depend on the natural resource base for economic wellbeing and sustenance. Coupled with the changing societal lifestyles, increase in population imposes undue pressure on natural resources. In addition to pollution, this trend culminates in resource degradation, misuse, and depletion. The undesirable state has adverse effects on the wellbeing of both current and future populations. More than ever, global populations have a duty to protect the environment and conserve natural resources. This is because environmental degradation threatens their very existence and wellbeing. Overexploitation tendencies and subsequent depletion denies both current and future populations a chance of benefiting from the natural resources.
Research evidence indicates that the severity, frequency,and complexity of modern environmental problems compel populations to assume sustainable approaches (Porter, 2002). Unlike previously, they take practical measures to protect the environment through education and pursuit of environmentally friendly programs. This changes their attitudes as well as behavior and encourages assumption of viable practices. In addition to reusing waste materials, individuals and organizations value the sustainable principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling. It is against this background that this paper provides an in depth evaluation of the benefits of recycling. After defining the concept and detailing characteristic processes, it proceeds to underscoring the various advantages of the practice as well as its ethical dimensions.
The Concept and Process of Recycling
According to Porter (2002) recycling denotes the processing of materials that have already been used into new products. The main goal of this practice is to reduce wasting useful materials that can otherwise be employed for manufacturing more products. In addition, it lowers consumption of raw materials and therefore promotes environmental conservation. Recycling is an important aspect of environmental protection because of the fact that it lessens the amount of waste that is released in the environment. The practice has been used since historical times to save time as well as resources. Modern populations pursue recycling in an effort to save resources too. Successful recycling requires availability of recyclable materials as well as sufficient resources to undertake the process with ease. Besides individual initiatives of responsible organizations, governments of nation states institute important policies and regulations that require organizations to recycle their products. The objective of government intervention in these initiatives is to regulate resource use and attain the highest level of sustainability.
Recycling is a stepwise process that includes collection, sorting, and manufacturing of the recyclable material into a new product. In order to benefit optimally from the process, Porter (2002) argues that the quality of the recyclable material should be relatively high. In this respect, quality recyclable materials contain higher percentages of target material. In instances where the recyclable material is of low quality, it is often disposed to landfills as opposed to undergoing recycling. In such a case, disposal is better because it saves on resources and paves way for efficiency. High quality recycling materials allow for manufacture of equally high quality products that have beneficial economic impacts. The economic value of such products as well as the revenue that is collected from them is relatively high.
As indicated earlier, the process of recycling is progressive and comprises of various phases. To begin with, the waste producers place various recyclable and non-recyclable materials at established collection points. In his research, Bajpai (2014) argues that mixing of target and non-target recyclable materials has adverse effects on the quality of the recyclable materials. In particular, it leads to contamination of materials that are suitable for recycling. After collection, the materials are transported to a centralized collection facility. Here, different types of materials are sorted according to characteristics and quality. Automated systems ease separation and grouping of these materials.
Benefits of Recycling
In the current environment, energy resources are being used at a very alarming rate. Trends indicate that the rate of deforestation has increased significantly (Pendergrast, 2011). Likewise, the volume of waste has doubled to worrying levels. For this reason, recycling is vitally imperative. To begin with, recycling contributes positively to conservation of energy. In this respect, Pendergrast (2011) indicates that the amount of energy that is used for processing products from recycled materials is less than the energy required for manufacturing products from their raw materials. Usually, a significant percentage of energy is expended during the production process involving raw materials. In addition, more energy is required to extract the materials and transport them to manufacturing plants. In the case of recycling, the raw materials are already available. In this respect, the available energy is only used to break down the recyclable materials into basic components before manufacturing. Comparatively, the amount of energy used at this stage is less.Besides conserving the energy for current populations, the practice preserves the energy for use by future populations.
Relative to this,recycling helps populations to save raw materials for use by both current and future populations. In their research, Ramayah, Lee and Lim (2012) point out that recycling reduces the demand for various types of raw materials including oil, forest resources, and metals. Indirectly, it reduces the pressure that populations impose on the environment. Research evidence shows that seemingly, the rate of resource consumption has increased significantly (Ramayah et al., 2012). Put differently, populations are consuming huge quantities of important raw materials. Continuedextractionof these raw materials leads to destruction as well as loss of important habitats. In this regard, physical extraction results in environmental degradation. In addition, pollution that stems from the manufacturing process exacerbates the condition. Manufacture of products from raw materials requires huge quantities of the respective materials. Comparatively, recycling requires smaller quantities of the used materials during manufacturing.
Also, recycling reduces deforestation incidences and thus helps in conservation of trees and wildlife.In his review, Pajpai (2014) indicates that recycling of products reduces the pressure that populations place on trees. Essentially, industries obtain raw materials such as furniture, fuel, wood, and herbs from forests. In the process, they engage in deforestation and lead to loss of important trees. The fact that deforestation has led to a decrease in tree cover cannot be disputed. Massive deforestation impacts negatively on global climates. Specifically, it increases global temperatures and has led to related natural disasters including floods, droughts, and extinction of important species. Climatic changes impact negatively on the quality of lifestyles that populations assume.
The economic benefits of recycling are wide and varied. According to Porter (2002), the practice reduces costs in different ways. As aforementioned, the amount of energy and resources that are employed in manufacturing are less. Porter (2002) posits that for instance, the costs of manufacturing using fresh aluminum are twice as much as those that industries incur while using recycled aluminum. Resultantly, the products from recycled materials are also cheaper. Elimination of materials in manufacturing reduces the waste products too. In this regard, industries and communities save significant resources that are related to waste disposal. Emergent research ascertains that waste disposal is costly and has negative effects on the economic wellbeing of organizations (Ramayah et al., 2012). Selling recycled materials enables industries and populations to generate additional income with which they use to offset waste disposal costs.
Subsequently, reduction of wastes enhances conservation of land that is otherwise used for disposal. When this land is diverted for other important uses, it benefits communities and increases their involvement in meaningful economic production. In nations that struggle with the problem of land scarcity, this is beneficial because it enables governments to save resources and engage the land in revenue-generating activities. At this point, it cannot be disputed that recycling saves significant resources and contributes to environmental sustainability.
In his research, Ramayah et al (2012) indicates that besides generating revenue, recycling creates jobs. This has beneficial effects on the economic wellbeing of states and individuals. Specifically, recycling leads to creation of new businesses that engage in transporting, processing, as well as selling the processed materials. The companies that distribute and manufacture products from processed materials create employment opportunities for deserving populations. Reportedly, the jobs that the recycling industry offers improve the skills and competencies of the labor force. Seemingly, the employment in this sector requires staffs to have specialized skills. They engage in various activities including sorting, dispatching, driving, engineering, and so forth. Comparatively, the jobs in this sector are better paying than those of the entertainment industry.
In addition to creating employment, recycling generates revenue through sale of respective materials. In this respect, it is worth appreciating that the global environmental policy advocates for recycling. In the recent past, governments of nation states are investing significantresources in recycling. Since the materials are cheaper and the processes equally cost effective, Porter (2002) reveals that countries such as China, Japan and South Korea are increasingly assuming the practice. Individuals and communities that engage in selling recyclable material benefit significantly from related sales. The expanding market for the recyclable materials is promising a sustained source of revenue for different facets of the population.
The political benefits of recycling cannot be under estimated too. In this regard, it is worth noting that a significant percentage of nation states do not have sufficient natural resources to sustain their economies and general wellbeing. This limitation makes them to depend on other nations that are endowed with important resources. This dependence is costly and requires the affected nations to use significant resources. In an effort to reduce the costs, emergent evidence shows that nation states are taking practical measures to seek for alternative sources of resources (Pendergrast, 2011). Thus, they resort to nonrenewable sources as well as other cost effective options including recycling. In addition, populations are placing great importance on environmental protection. They hold political leaders and policy formulators responsible for ensuring assumption of environmentally friendly practices. Both leaders and citizens demonstrate their patriotism by putting in place processes and systems that encourage resource and energy conservation and recycling. Arguably, these approaches prevent over reliance of the countries on other nations for critical resources.
From an ethical point of view, recycling is beneficial because it safeguards the wellbeing of future populations in addition to providing for the needs of current populations. As indicated earlier, the practice creates job opportunities for current populations. Unlike other forms of employment in the entertainment sector, respective jobs are more rewarding and contribute to improving the quality of life of populations. With respect to securing the wellbeing of future population, recycling prevents pollution and resource wastage. By conserving the resources, it ensures that future populations have a share in the natural resource base. Since it reduces pollution, recycling improves the wellbeing of the environment and protects natural habitats. This enhances regeneration of resources and assures future populations of resource availability. From a utilitarian perspective, it enhances the degree of happiness that both current and future populations derive from resource use.
Generally, moral values demand that organizations assume responsibility for their activities (Bajpai, 2014). In most instances, large organizations use a higher percentage of resources and emit huge volumes of wastes in the environment. Fundamentally, the extent of environmental harm that they cause is higher than that of smaller organizations. In this regard, they need to assume a higher responsibility for this harm. In particular, they should undertake sustainable activities that aim at restoring environmental wellbeing and preventing degradation. Recycling offers one of the best alternatives through which these organizations can pursue these goals. Essentially, it gives them a chance to participate actively in addressing environmental degradation by reducing the volume of wastes and combating different forms of pollution.
Generally, recycling practices foster sustainable living. Bajpai (2014) indicates that the practice instills a sense of environmental consciousness in the populations. In this respect, it is an educational endeavor that has direct impacts on the behaviors and attitudes of populations. In particular, it enables populations to review their consumption practices and the implications that these have on the wellbeing of the environment. It equips them with knowledge about alternative practices that are environmentally viable. By encouraging populations to assume green practices, it reduces production of wastes and curbs destructive pollution. In addition, it encourages populations to assume desirable lifestyles and refrain from engaging in practices that are environmentally harmful. Ultimately, recycling has positive implications on behaviors and mannerisms that populations assume at different points.
Modern populations grapple the challenge of dealing with environmental degradation and resource over exploitation. In the recent past, they have adopted various measures to address the problem by coming up with viable approaches and sustainable programs. More than ever, environmental protection is at the core of organizational goals and objectives. One of the approaches that populations, organizations, and individuals assume includes recycling. This denotes the reprocessing of used materials into new products. Besides reducing wastes, the practice saves resources by reducing the raw materials that are required for manufacturing. In addition, it reduces the amount of wastes that industries emit in the environment and saves important energy resources. Most importantly, recycling instills a sense of environmental consciousness in the population. The strategy is sustainable and goes a long way in changing the attitudes and behaviors of populations. By assuming environmentally friendly approaches, populations contribute significantly to curbing the problem of environmental degradation. Finally, recycling is an ethical responsibility that organizations, individuals and government agencies need to assume at all times. Moral values demand that they conserve natural resources and protect the environment to benefit future populations.
Bajpai, P. (2014). Environmental aspects of recycling.Recycling and Deinking of Recovered Paper, 271-282.
Pendergrast, B. (2011). Benefits of recycling. New york: GRIN Verlag GmbH.
Porter, R. (2002). The economics of waste. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Ramayah, T., Lee, J. & Lim, S. (2012). Sustaining the environment through recycling: An empirical study.Journal of Environmental Management, 102, 141-147.