Is recycling really worth all the time and effort?

11 January 2007
Is recycling really worth all the time and effort?

I am the owner of three pub-restaurants and two hotels. I am keen on recycling but have just read an article that claims recycling of paper, glass and plastic has negligible impact on the global environment. Is it really worth all the time and effort?

Barry Bolton, ACM Waste Management

It is absolutley essential that we all make the effort to recycle as much of our waste as possible.

Recycling materiels such as paper, glass and plastic delivers significant environmental benefitsd, including energy savings and preventing the depletion of the Earth's natural resources.

Energy savings are an inportant benefit of recycling, because the energy used in the manufacturing process requiers the consumption of scare fossil fuels and results in emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.

For example, it takes eight times more energy to manufacture plastic bottlesd from virgin polymer than it does to use recycled materials; recycling paper cuts energy usage in half; and recycling a tonne of glass saves the equivalent on nine gallons of fuel oil. Also, the steps in supplying recycled materials to industry (including collection, processing and transportation) typically use less energy than the steps in supplying vergin materials.

It is also vital that we reduce the amount of waste that is currently being sent to landfill, because this is one of the largest sources of methane emissons, and methane is 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Landfill is becoming inicreasingly scarce in the UK and we must change our attitudes towards waste and start to view it as a valuable commodity that can be reused and recycled rather than something that is dicarded and forgotton.

We must all take responsiblity for our actions and take whatever steps are available to us to protect our planet for future generations, and managing our waste responsibly by adopting the 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle - is one way that we can all do that.

Patrick McCart, ADSM

Recycling waste means less going to our landfills. However, the greatest environmental benefits of recycling are in the conservation of energy and natural resources and the prevention of pollution.

Is it sensible to use a valuable material or product only once and then place it in your waste bin? It is much more efficient to divert that material for recycling and capture the energy and resources already used to make that product. Since recycled materials have been refined and processed once, manufacturing the second time around is much cleaner and less energy-intensive than the first time.

Recycling offers an important environmental benefit: it reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons, that contribute to climate change.

At Advanced Demand Side Management (ADSM), we specialise in assisting organisations to reduce energy and water consumption, delivering financial savings and helping to meet the global environmental challenge. Products we supply include rainwater harvesting systems, lighting controls, insulation and infrared taps.

Recycling and composting reduce greenhouse gases by decreasing the energy needed to make products from raw materials and reducing emissions from incinerators and landfills. This in turn reduces methane emissions and slows the harvesting of trees, thereby maintaining the CO2 storage benefit provided by forests. So keep up the good work, you are making a big difference.

Liz Morrish, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)

Recycling actually does three good things for the environment: it reduces the amount of rubbish sent to landfill sites it helps to conserve energy and important raw materials and it is a simple way in which everyone can make a positive contribution to tackling climate change.

Recent research commissioned by WRAP has concluded that current UK recycling of the main recyclables - paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, aluminium and steel - saves between 10 and 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. This is equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars off UK roads.

Some of this positive impact derives from the fact that it can be more energy-efficient to manufacture new products from recycled materials rather than virgin resources. Using recycled glass can give energy savings of more than 20%. With recycled aluminium, the energy saving is even higher, at 95%.

From a business point of view, climate change is grabbing the front pages as never before, and the public increasingly wants to know what the businesses they deal with are doing to protect the environment. The fact that you are recycling your waste shows your staff, guests and the wider community that your business has a firm commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

It is also worth remembering that waste disposal costs are rising, so your recycling efforts are increasingly likely to have a beneficial effect on your bottom line.

WRAP is currently working with the HCIMA to provide advice to hospitality businesses to help them make the most of the opportunities to reduce waste, save on waste disposal costs and recycle as much as they can.

For more on green issues go to

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