In recent years we have all become used to hearing lots about the benefits of recycling cardboard and plastics within the media. Many of the local councils seem to be constantly promoting this environmentally friendly practice in order to hammer home it’s importance. But in comparison little is heard about the importance of metals recycling.
This is surprisingly given the volume and value of this industry. In the UK metals recycling is worth around £5.6 billion, and around the world around 400 million tonnes of metal is recycled each year.
But why is it important to recycle our metals? Well virtually all metals can be recycled into a high quality new metal. Also, recycling metal saves energy and protects the environment. Using recycled materials means less use of natural resources which may be needed to make other metal compounds in the future. There is also reduced CO2 emissions as a result of recycling, the figure is around 200 million tonnes every year that is cut by the use of recycled materials.
Aside from the environmental benefits, the scrap metal recycling industry has economic benefits too. The manufacturing of metals is one of the largest manufacturing sectors within the UK, it employs more people, and contributes a higher value to the UK economy then the motor and aerospace industries combined. This is a significant benefit.
Let’s look at one year in the world of scrap metal recycling, during 2005 13 million tonnes of metal was recycled in the UK, around 40% if this was used within the UK and the remaining 60% was exported worldwide.
You may think that this profitable industry just benefits the larger companies around the UK, however this is not the case, there are a number of family run, smaller companies that also play a part in the industry, and they reap the benefits alongside their larger cousins.
So we have looked at scrap metal, what about the other types of recycling, we should give a nod to all the good that these more “media” aware forms of recycling bring.
In 2007, around 8.6 million tonnes of paper was recovered in the UK. This massive haul of reusable waste allows for newspapers to be printed on 100% recycled paper here within the UK (accounting for half of the 8.6 million tonnes) the rest of the paper was exported, resulting in a much needed boost to the UK economy. In 2007/2008 over 1 million tonnes of glass was recycled, however the UK still has a capacity to recycle more glass, this will have a huge impact on the environment now and in years to come.
Here we have shown that there are many benefits to recycling, whatever the material is. It boosts the economy, allows for more resources to be available in the future, and ensures for a cleaner planet for us, our children and the future generations. The small part that we can all play, has a big impact, what better reason can there be than that?