Of all of the materials that can be recycled, glass is one of the most rewarding in terms of efficiency and value. Here is a statistic – if you place a glass bottle in a landfill, it could take as long as a million years to decompose. However, if you place it in a recycling bin it can be made into a new glass bottle within less than a month.
If that isn’t a good enough reason to recycle glass, then think on this. Glass is the only material that is 100% efficient in its recycling. That is to say that if you recycle a glass bottle, you will get the same standard of glass from the process that you put into it – and this cycle holds permanently so the same container could be recycled forever with no loss of quality.
If you go to the supermarket today and buy something in a glass bottle, the likelihood is that seventy per cent of the glass in that bottle will have come from a recycling process. On the other hand, to make glass from scratch – a process that features heating substances to a temperature of more than two thousand degrees Fahrenheit – it requires energy and causes a lot of pollution.
Recycled glass is also probably the safest recycled material of all, because it has very little chemical interaction with anything it comes into contact with. This means that very little newly-recycled glass has to be disposed of because it does not come up to an acceptable standard.
If you stop for a moment to think about the amount of soda that the average person drinks in a year, and then think how many cans that adds up to, it is quite something to picture all those cans piled up. If you then think about how many cans an entire town, city, or state will drink in a year, then the amount of cans stuck in landfills has to be something utterly remarkable. And the thing is, putting cans in the trash and letting them go to landfill really makes no sense when it is so easy to recycle.
An interesting fact is that it takes eight tonnes of bauxite – the raw material which is turned into aluminium – to make one tonne of aluminium. This means that making aluminium from scratch takes a lot of energy and depletes existing bauxite reserves at quite a rate. By recycling aluminium, it is estimated that a saving in energy of 92% is made compared to making it from bauxite. This is a quite astounding saving in energy terms, and when you consider the amount of bauxite it takes to make virgin aluminium, it only makes sense to recycle.
Aluminium cans are present in just about every household in the country. It would be an amazing change if even half of the people who drink or eat goods from aluminium containers were to take those containers to be recycled – saving the country and the individual money and effort in the long run.
For so long, we were unaware of how the environment was affected by what we have come to consider as human activity. As a result, in the present day we find ourselves running somewhat to catch up, and the only way that we can get more out of ourselves in the recycling process is to look to science for help. How can the scientific sector help us to make the future cleaner and greener. What is on offer as a recycling head start?
Scientists are working on a system of making fuel from biomass – a word to describe any materials we dispose of that may be able to biodegrade fast and have another use. As things stand, biomass fuel is still very much a niche industry – but if it gets the opportunity it could be the solution to two problems in one. Less burning of fossil fuels means less harm to the air quality and less contribution to global warming. The use of garbage of fuel means more space in landfills.
Recent advances in the recycling of paper have included “deinking”, a system which draws the ink from newsprint as part of the recycling process. The outcome of this is that recycled paper is now of a better quality than ever, making it usable in a wider range of processes and lessening the need to cut down trees for the purposes of making virgin paper. The logic inherent in doing this is obvious. More trees means less carbon dioxide, more recycled paper means less pollution – allowing us to cut the amount of pollutants in our environment.