Recycle – Concept, importance, types and 3R rule

We explain what recycling is and how important it is to carry out this action. Also, the types of recycling and the 3R’s rule.

Recycling is turning waste materials into raw materials or other products.

What is recycling?

It is understood by recycling the act of converting waste materials into raw materials or other products, in order to extend its useful life and combat the accumulation of waste in the world. Recycling re-inserts waste material from numerous industrial, business or daily consumption activities into the production chain, allowing it to be reused and reducing the need to acquire or produce new materials.

Not all existing materials are recyclable, but a good number of them do, such as cardboard, glass, aluminum, paper and certain types of plastics, which can be subjected to various reuse processes and restart their useful cycle. In other cases, on the other hand, they cannot be given the same use, but they can be given a different use in construction, decoration, energy production processes, etc.

This is the case with organic waste (food scraps, liquid garbage, etc.), which are not recyclable, but luckily there are biodegradation processes that carry out an equivalent natural activity, being able to be used for composting or manufacture of compost.

Recycling is a minority activity in the face of the enormous capacities to manufacture new materials that in our post-industrial world are put into operation on a daily basis. It is often much more economical to produce something new than to recycle something old, which makes this much-needed activity ecologically unprofitable.

Importance of recycling

Recycling can combat pollution.

Recycling is a way to combat pollution of soils and seas, since the prolonged presence of garbage in them leads to unpredictable changes in their biotic and ecological processes. With a view to building a sustainable industrial life model over time, that is, one that does not lead headlong to disease, extinction and climate change, recycling is imposed as a human need.

On the other hand, recycle certain elements can be a moderately lucrative activity, once it is implemented as part of daily culture. Recycled items are bought by companies that take advantage of them to reduce their purchase of raw materials, so it is a win-win scenario.

Types of recycling

There are various forms of recycling, depending on the nature of the material in question, such as:

  • Recycling of paper. Large quantities of used paper can be soaked to make cellulose pulp and produce inferior quality paper that can be reused.
  • Metal recycling. Everyday metal products made from aluminum, copper and other soft metals, can be melted and reused to make new products, reducing the need to buy raw materials.
  • Recycling of plastic containers. Tetra-bricks and other whole plastic containers can be reused, once they have been properly sanitized and ready to re-contain food or juices.
  • Recycling of oils. Cooking oil is a powerful water pollutant, which can be collected and used through filtration and purification processes, as a machine lubricant.
  • Composting. Organic waste such as decomposing food leftovers can become compost for planting or even inputs for obtaining biofuels.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Reuse combats the culture of consumerism.

A bio-friendly culture pattern that leads to a sustainable society is known as the “3R norm”. For this, three key concepts must be implemented in our daily lives, which are:

  • Reduce. Consume only what is necessary, avoid the culture of waste that not only generates more waste than is strictly necessary, but also consumes resources that are costly to obtain in environmental terms, such as electricity or drinking water. Small daily actions can guarantee significant savings in the planet’s natural resources, many of which are not renewable and cannot be processed cleanly.
  • Re-use. The use of old materials and products for new purposes, before immediately exchanging them for others. This is how the culture of consumerism and irresponsibility is fought, with small gestures such as writing the pages on both sides, filling glass bottles, etc.
  • Recycle. Give new life to waste materials, such as packaging, paper, aluminum cans, etc., reincorporating them into the production chain. This requires an effort to separate recyclable from biodegradable garbage, as well as a public organization that distinguishes the places to deposit them separately.