By – E Kelley

The environmental challenges facing our nation are enormous. The fact is that if we all take responsibility for our individual behavior and attitudes, we can definitely make a difference by our choices.

Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. Recycling can benefit your community and the environment. Recycling is a process to convert waste materials into reusable material to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to plastic production.

There is a need for government to help people along by providing recycling bins in public spaces as well as making them available to homes. The question is how to divert most of the solid waste from landfills.

Cooperatives can be set up in communities, the neighborhood pushcart operators who are seen as a nuisance by Government can be organized into groups that collect these recycled materials from homes and sort, clean and package these materials and sell these to recycling companies.

Recycling bins can be designated in different colors to enable people identify where the different categories of waste end up. Plastics, glass, aluminum cans, paper and other organic waste which can be composted. The initiative can be set up to reward households that key into the programme by awarding prices and cash to people who drop-off their recycled wastes.

Recycling is a major industry if properly harnessed; it can be a major money spinner for the economy. In California, waste recycling and management ranks higher on the economy and job creation scale compared to the State’s entertainment industry – Hollywood.

It generates $10billion worth of goods and services employing more than 85,000 workers. There are over 56,000 recycling business outlets in the Unites States wages of workers in recycling are higher than the national average for all industries, annual revenue of $236billion is generated from this sector alone.

Some countries which do not have natural resources import waste materials such as used paper for their manufacturing industries such as used paper for their manufacturing industries, China, South Korea, and Japan import recycled waste paper, and other processed waste materials.

If the government can get households, communities, cities and states to buy into the project of sorting out wastes, and processing them, a whole lot of materials would be available to the recycling industry.

Benefits of Recycling

  • Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals
  • Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials
  • Saves energy
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change
  • Helps sustain the environment for future generations
  • Helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries

Pollution from Landfill Leachate

Landfills cause another problem in addition to taking up lots of space. The assortment of chemicals thrown into landfills, plus the chemicals that result when garbage breaks down and blends into a toxic soup known as leachate, creates huge amounts of pollution. Leachate can drain out of the landfill and contaminate groundwater supplies. Today, impermeable clay caps and plastic sheeting prevent much of this run off, making the landfills much safer than they were just a few decades ago. Still, any leachate is too much if it’s draining into your neighborhood.

The more we recycle, the less garbage winds up in our landfills and incineration plants. By reusing aluminum, paper, glass, plastics, and other materials, we can save production and energy costs, and reduce the negative impacts that the extraction and processing of virgin materials has on the environment.

New Goods Use Up Resources

Making a brand-new product without any recycled material causes natural resources to deplete in the manufacturing process. Paper uses wood pulp from trees, while the manufacture of plastics requires the use of fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. Making something from recycled materials means using fewer natural resources.

Recycling (Sometimes) Uses Less Energy

There’s room for debate on this aspect of recycling, but many recycling processes require less energy than it would take to manufacture the same item brand-new. Manufacturing plastic is very inexpensive, and some plastic goods can be difficult to recycle efficiently. In those cases, the recycling process probably takes more energy. It can also be difficult to weigh all the energy costs along the entire chain of production. Recycling steel certainly uses less energy than the entire process of mining iron ore, refining it and forging new steel. Some contend that the fleet of recycling trucks collecting plastic and paper door to door every week in cities across the United States tips the balance of energy out of recycling’s favor. Energy use is a factor weighed on a case-by-case basis.

Generates Money

Recycling has a variety of economic impacts. For the companies that buy used goods, recycle them and resell new products, recycling is the source of all their income. For cities in densely populated areas that have to pay by the ton for their landfill usage, recycling can shave millions of dollars off municipal budgets. The recycling industry can have an even broader impact. Economic analysis shows that recycling can generate three times as much revenue per ton as landfill disposal and almost six times as many jobs.

Steps to Recycling Materials

Recycling includes the three steps below, which create a continuous loop, represented by the familiar recycling symbol.

Step 1: Collection and Processing

There are several methods for collecting recyclables, including curbside collection, drop-off centers, and deposit or refund programs.

After collection, recyclables are sent to a recovery facility to be sorted, cleaned and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing. Recyclables are bought and sold just like raw materials would be, and prices go up and down depending on supply and demand.

Common Recyclables: Paper, Batteries, Plastics, Used oil,

 Step 2: Manufacturing

More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include the following:

  • Newspapers and paper towels
  • Aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers
  • Steel cans
  • Plastic laundry detergent bottles

Recycled materials are also used in new ways such as recovered glass in asphalt to pave roads or recovered plastic in carpeting and park benches.

Step 3: Purchasing New Products Made from Recycled Materials

You help close the recycling loop by buying new products made from recycled materials. There are thousands of products that contain recycled content. When you go shopping, look for the following:

  • Products that can be easily recycled
  • Products that contain recycled content

Below are some of the terms used:

  • Recycled-content product – The product was manufactured with recycled materials either collected from a recycling program or from waste recovered during the normal manufacturing process. The label will sometimes include how much of the content was from recycled materials.
  • Post-consumer content – Very similar to recycled content, but the material comes only from recyclables collected from consumers or businesses through a recycling program.
  • Recyclable product – Products that can be collected, processed and manufactured into new products after they have been used. These products do not necessarily contain recycled materials. Remember not all kinds of recyclables may be collected in your community so be sure to check with your local recycling program before you buy.

Some of the common products you can find that can be made with recycled content include the following:

  • Aluminum cans
  • Car bumpers
  • Carpeting
  • Cereal boxes
  • Comic books
  • Egg cartons
  • Glass containers
  • Laundry detergent bottles
  • Motor oil
  • Nails
  • Newspapers
  • Paper towels
  • Steel products
  • Trash bags
  • The National Assembly and the State House of Assemblies need to enact laws that would make it mandatory for manufacturing and packaging companies to include a percentage of recycled materials in their packaging products.
  • A recycling tax should be imposed on them to enable the government fund community recycling initiatives.
  • Laws should also be enacted to mandate refuse collection contractors to provide appropriate gears for refuse collectors such as overalls, face masks, gloves, and boots and ensure they are given comprehensive health insurance.
  • The Government should also encourage the construction companies to embrace recycled materials in road and house construction.
  • Assist private sectors participation by encouraging banks to fund recycling plants and industries.
  • All MDAs and public buildings should also be mandated to set up recycled stations at their various buildings; that way government is seen to set a good example and the people will follow suit. If this initiative is embraced by the 36states of the federation and the FCT, it will go a long way to boosting the economy and creation of jobs.
  • For this initiative to succeed, it is critical to get all the Local Government Councils in the Federation to buy into the project as they are the arm of government closest to the people, it is important to launch door to door campaigns encouraging the people to recycle their wastes.
  • Establishment of Door step collection schemes.
  • Local Government Councils need to be given targets to reduce the amount of wastes they generate for landfills and the wastes they incinerate.
  • Establishment of recycling collection and sorting centres and recycling factories to reprocess the wastes at all Local Governments in the Federation.
  • Recycling should be incorporated into the NYSC programe so Corpers can be trained to serve as “R A” Recycling Ambassadors to spread the message and encourage people in the communities where they serve to recycle their wastes.
  • Establishment of community composting centres and encouragement of individual households to compose their organic wastes.
  • Upgrading of used household goods markets known as “Pan takers” to reclamation yards where their operations can be properly streamlined and they can be hubs to feed the recycling factories.
  • Providing financial incentives for recycling.
  • Establishment of recycling management units in all Ministries of Environment in the Country.
  • Partnership with the private sector to provide recycling bins all around the Country.
  • Encouraging the newspaper and paper industries to setup wastes paper mills which can feed the paper Industry.
  • Integration of green programs in school curriculums to co-opt young people into recycling to enable a healthy and sustainable environment.
  • Establishment of an agency at the Federal level to coordinate the efforts of the Local Governments and provide them with support
  • Partnership with NGO’s to educate the general populace on the benefits of recycling not only to the environment but to future generations.
  • Partnership with International Organizations and Bodies to provide financial and material assistance.

The Federal Ministries of Environment has a very critical role to play in kick starting this initiative to motivate the general public, to embrace a clean and green life style in sustaining a healthy environment for present and future generations.