The question can be answered by first understanding about recycling and then about its importance.
We live in a natural environment which is formed of three basic habitats: land, water and air. These habitats are important to us for our survival because all the material resources that we use, food we take, water we drink and air we breathe, all are derived from naturally existing resources. Even the so called man-made materials are built by using constituents derived from the resources existing in nature.
Materials existing in nature are in a state of equilibrium with the natural environment and balance is generally harmless. There is a self-regulating balance in the overall environment caused by frequent changes in weather, seasons and climatic effects. But massive exploitation of natural resources by human beings for food, shelter, clothing, and industrial uses has disturbed this balance. The wastes produced after the use of natural resources are released in natural habitats. These wastes being unnatural and incompatible with natural surroundings severely affect the environment and its constituents, the water bodies, land and the air.
Ironically, the indiscriminate use of natural resources and uncontrollable wastes generated are damaging the environment to a point of no return. There are three possible ways to get rid of wastes: use for land refilling, burn to destroy and recycle it. Land refilling pollutes the land surface and the water bed below the ground and affects the life forms. Burning releases toxic gasses and causes air pollution. Recycling is an option which is of great value economically as well as the protection of environment. In common parlance, recycling means conversion of waste into reusable forms.
Human development index (HDI) is a measure to assess impact of development in improving the quality of life. There is a direct relationship between HDI and its ecological impact; the greater is the HDI, the more is its ecological footprint. Recycling of resources is an intervention that takes care of ecological footprint caused by development. Recycling changes the linear model of development to a circular development model. Here resources are not necessarily obtained from the nature, instead all available materials are recovered from waste.
Recycling is the basic concept of ‘circular economy’ which is fast gaining acceptance globally as a means of development. To be successful in the implementation of circular economy, a variety of inputs are required for recycling of wastes, such as development of technology and infrastructure, financial resources, policies, practices and legislations.
Circular Development Model:
Recycling of wastes generated as a result of human use of natural resources is an approach to avoid, reduce, and overcome the problem of pollution of environment caused by wastes from domestic, civic (municipal), industrial and defence uses of materials and products. In current times there is no human activity which does not produce wastes.
Adoption of circular development model allows use of wastes as an easily available resource to isolate, produce, recreate, or develop new materials at a cheaper cost and time.
The circular model of development envisages zero waste by 100% utilization of wastes.
Importance of Recycling:
The importance of recycling can be understood from the following applications and their advantages:
- Recycling is the basic component of the circular development model. It leads to optimum utilization of the finite natural resources. It allows recycling of all recyclable materials from wastes of all kinds: municipal wastes, glass, metal, plastics, packaging materials and e-wastes.
- Recycling aims that no wastes shall be used for land-filling or burnt. Also it aims to protect all habitats (land, water and air) from wastes. Recycling promotes sustainability by reuse of the resources.
- Recycling can overcome the bad effects of industrial and greenhouse gasses. This can help mitigate climate change.
- The advantages associated with recycled materials are far reaching in economic terms. The cost of recovered materials or newly produced materials from waste can be very low.
- Recycling offers opportunities for creation of employment opportunities and new cheaper products. The low price of materials recovered from waste can be understood from the fact that about 1 gram of gold can be recovered from 41 junk mobiles in comparison of tons of processed gold-ore used to produce the same amount of gold.
- By development of technology, wastes can be used to produce totally new materials and composites for new uses.
Recycling is the next frontier for human endeavour for promoting zero waste and development of new technologies, new products and services.