7 Benefits of Recycling

7 Benefits of Recycling

From the pollution produced by landfills to the devastating effects of plastic in our oceans, we urgently need to stem the flow of rubbish pouring into our environment. Here's a reminder of why recycling is such a good thing – for you and the planet.


1. Conserves natural resources

The world's natural resources are finite, and some are in very short supply.

At a basic level:

  • Recycling paper and wood saves trees and forests. Yes, you can plant new trees, but you can't replace virgin rainforest or ancient woodlands once they're lost. 
  • Recycling plastic means creating less new plastic, which is definitely a good thing, especially as it's usually made from fossil fuel hydrocarbons.
  • Recycling metals means there's less need for risky, expensive and damaging mining and extraction of new metal ores.
  • Recycling glass reduces the need to use new raw materials like sand – it sounds hard to believe, but supplies of some types of sand are starting to get low around the world.


2. Protects ecosystems and wildlife

Heap of empty, squashed plastic bottles ready for recycling

Recycling reduces the need to grow, harvest or extract new raw materials from the Earth. That in turn lessens the harmful disruption and damage being done to the natural world: fewer forests cut down, rivers diverted, wild animals harmed or displaced, and less pollution of water, soil and air. 

And of course if our plastic waste isn't safely put in the recycling, it can be blown or washed into rivers and seas and end up hundreds or thousands of miles away, polluting coastlines and waterways and becoming a problem for everyone. 


3. Reduces demand for raw materials

photo of cut timber batons in store

The world's increasing demand for new stuff has led to more of the poorest and most vulnerable people (for example, those living around forests or river systems) being displaced from their homes, or otherwise exploited. Forest communities can find themselves evicted as a result of the search for cheap timber and rivers can be damned or polluted by manufacturing waste.

It's far better to recycle existing products than to damage someone else's community or land in the search for new raw materials.


4. Saves energy 

WeNaturalists on X: "How does Recycling Save Energy? #Recycling saves energy  by reducing or eliminating the need to make materials from scratch. Making  products from scratch can be both labor intensive and

Making products from recycled materials requires less energy than making them from new raw materials. Sometimes it's a huge difference in energy. For example:

  • Producing new aluminum from old products (including recycled cans and foil) uses 95% less energy than making it from scratch. For steel it's about a 70% energy saving.
  • Making paper from pulped recycled paper uses 40% less energy than making it from virgin wood fibres. 
  • The amount of energy saved from recycling one glass bottle could power an old 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours and a new low-energy LED equivalent for a lot longer.


5. Cuts climate-changing carbon emissions

Calculating Carbon Emissions is Key to Improving Health | Human Spaces

Because recycling means you need to use less energy on sourcing and processing new raw materials, it produces lower carbon emissions. It also keeps potentially methane-releasing waste out of landfill sites. 

Reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere is vital for stopping disastrous climate change.


6. Cheaper than waste collection and disposal

Worker collecting recycling, emptying bin

Lambeth council in London pointed out that "it is 6 times cheaper to dispose of recycled waste than general refuse." So, the more you recycle, and the less you put in the bin, the more money is saved, which should be good for households, businesses and local public services.

Recycling food waste and green waste is a great idea too, often generating lots of valuable compost that can be used to grow more food and other crops. 


7. Tackles youth unemployment 

Youth strikers at the Global Climate Strike, 20 September 2019

There are over 500,000 young people aged 16-24 out of work. 

Instead of propping up declining, polluting industries, the government must future-proof livelihoods by investing in more green jobs.

Right now, young people are being taught and given careers advice on jobs that may not even exist in 10 years' time. We're setting them up to fail where we could be training them to succeed.


If in doubt, remember those three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

23,100+ Reduce Reuse Recycle Stock Illustrations, Royalty-Free Vector  Graphics & Clip Art - iStock | Reduce reuse recycle logo, Reduce reuse  recycle icon, Reduce reuse recycle sign

The truth is we all need to get into the habit of using less stuff in the first place. And the things we do use ought to be reused as much as possible before being recycled, to minimize waste.

This would significantly aid the response to the global waste management challenge, which has seen many countries in the Global South unfairly shoulder the responsibility of managing the waste of countries in the Global North. The question of what to do with waste is one that governments cannot ignore. 

It's important that we combine our efforts to manage our waste with increased calls for tougher government action on reducing plastic waste.




  • All photos used in this blogpost are sourced from the internet, and the rights belong to their respective owners
  • 7 benefits of recycling. (n.d.). Friends of the Earth. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/sustainable-living/7-benefits-recycling
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