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Recycling is a challenge for all humankind to implement, as is re-use and composting programs, to minimize the generation of municipal solid waste that ends up in landfills. Our society as a whole including consumers, corporations and government must think proactively about reducing our impact. Although significant progress has been made, there is much more work to be done!
Recycling involves processing used materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution and water pollution by reducing the need for conventional waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin products. A recyclable material includes many kinds of glass, paper, metal, textiles, and electronics. There is also composting which is the reuse of biodegradable waste - such as food or garden waste - but this is not typically considered recycling per se.
Recycling has been a common practice for most of human history. In pre-industrial times there is evidence of scrap bronze and other metals being melted down for reuse. In Britain, dust and ash from wood and coal fires was collected and used to make bricks.
Wartime recycling was caused by shortages in metal and other resources used to make tanks and artillery. The next big recycling campaign did not come until the 1970's, which was caused by rising energy costs. It was found that recycling aluminum used only 5% of the energy required by virgin production. Woodbury, New Jersey was the first city to mandate recycling.
For a recycling program to work there has to be a stable, large supply of recyclable materials. Legislation has been used to increase and maintain this demand for recycled materials.
The following are the most common recyclables:
- Aggregates and Concrete
- Biodegradable Waste
- Ferrous Metals