Is recycling worth the effort?

Is recycling worth the effort?

Is recycling worth the effort? There are some who would argue that it’s not, as it is expensive to do and it may actually do more harm than good.

Some facts need to be cleared up about recycling however, and Popular Mechanics give us answers to three of the most common gripes we all have about taking the time to separate our rubbish.

It’s a lot of work and money to sort recycling by hand.

Not necessarily true. Today state-of-the-art facilities have magnets to attract steel, currents to deflect aluminium, infrared spectrometers to identify different types of plastics, and many other sorting technologies. The machines are getting smarter, and doing the work the humans would have had to do before. These sorting plants are expensive, so they only make sense if there are large volumes going through them. Although some human sorting will always be needed, once these sorting plants are up and running, it makes sense to get good use out of them. Collecting rubbish from one bin and sorting it makes more economic sense than collecting a lot of smaller bins on different days too, saving further.

It costs money and causes pollution to collect the stuff

Scientists have actually compared recycling with other options like landfill and incineration. They found that in all cases, less energy is needed to recycle an old product than to create one from raw materials, so while energy is used, it’s still a lot less than needed to create new items.

A lot of plastic in recycling bins can’t be picked out and ends up in the other rubbish

This has been a problem, as it’s difficult for machines to pick out the various types of plastic. That problem is on the way out, though, as new technology makes it possible to sort anything from yogurt pots to plastic toys. Optical sorters use infrared light to instantly identify the chemical composition of a container, then a puff of air directs it into the right pile – wow!

Turns out it is worth our while to do all of that sorting, and it won’t be long before we don’t even need to sort anymore, as the machines at the plant will do it for us!

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