What is recycling?

What is recycling?

The action or process of converting waste into reusable material.

Oxford dictionary

How do I recycle?

There are several ways to recycle. If you are reusing, reselling or regifting products instead of throwing them away, you are basically recycling. It can be done with little effort and we are able to see it everywhere. Secondhand shops are based on that principle. However, if that fails you, in most countries and regions, there is a governmental recycling service. It is the most commonly represented and most associated way of recycling. Therefore, you are probably already familiar with it. The state collects your recyclable garbage and then makes new products out of it. How exactly that works is written down below, so stay tuned.

The recycling process

At first, a recyclable good is bought by a consumer (you). At the end of the product’s purpose of use, the consumer decides to put it in his recycling bin, which gets picked up every week (times may vary from region to region). A state-organized service collects the consumer’s bin and that of many other houses. A recovery facility sorts, cleans and transforms the used products into reusable material. In return, the reusable material is processed into new wares, these can be recycled again. The distinctive circle symbolizing the recycling process is representing this loop.

Are all plastics recyclable?

Unfortunately no, not all plastics are recyclable.

For example, Polystyrene is almost completely unfit to be recycled. Further, PVC products are entirely not recyclable.  Whereas, LDPE and Polypropylene plastics are only partially recyclable.

This picture shows the trash in a recovery facility

Why should we recycle?

For many people, the answer is obvious, “because basic human decency suggests so!” Howsoever, why do we really recycle? What is so beneficial about it? In short, why do we care? To begin with, recycling reduces the amount of trash that is getting dispatched in landfills or incinerators. Ergo, plastic pollution and Greenhouse gas emissions are scaled-down. Further, recycling helps to secure the economy by ensuring a domestic source of raw materials. Another main point rarely unspoken of is the safeguarding of natural resources. Your math teacher probably mentioned that you will save trees, if you put your test in the recycling bin instead of throwing it through the classroom at your best friend. That joke being made, the recycling process undoubtedly protects timber, water and certain minerals. Recycling is saving energy that is being wasted by creating products from scratch instead of from trash. I would like to emphasize this point; therefore, I will quote the American Geosciences Institute,

“In 2014, over 89 million tons of municipal solid waste (…) were recycled or composted in the United States, saving over 322,000 GWh of energy– enough to provide electricity to 30 million homes.”

If you would like to know how much exactly 1 GW is, please click here.

What does that mean for plastic pollution?

Solely recycling plastics will not solve plastic pollution; however, it will help to counteract the problem, at least scarcely.


American Geosciences Institute, Environmental Protection Agency (2) (3), Eartheasy, Columbia University and University of Alaska Fairbanks (the University of Alaska Fairbanks is currently remodelling their website; therefore, this link can not be reached at the moment. We are hoping for your understanding)