A better material quality
Better recycling provides better material, which in turn brings more value. When more and more of the material is either reused or recycled, the quantity of material will impact the market. This will increase the need for improved processes and methods. Those processes will, in their turn, improve the quality of the recycled materials even more. We are also on the path to creating broader markets for secondary or recycled materials.
Preventing material loss
As the recycling rate goes up, we automatically lift the material up the waste hierarchy. This prevents the material from leaving the loop, and instead, we can use, for example, metals repeatedly. Another aspect is early material handling. For example, there are many different kinds of steel. Separating them before they are recycled ensures that the other alloys can be used more efficiently and for more products. When steel is sorted correctly, the material price rises, compared to poorly sorted steel, which prevents downgrading of the material.
Comprehensive sustainability values
A higher degree of recycling also means a lesser need for virgin material, like metal ore. We can achieve this by improving all parts of the production chain, from design to waste handling. One important factor is design for recycling so that no product is designed to be thrown away at its end-of-life. We also maximize the material handling so that the production spill is kept to a minimum.
Also, we must see the co-workers in an industry as a vital resource. By supporting and training the staff, they can help us find new and more efficient ways to sort and recycle material.
Opportunity to build new processes and to improve existing ones
We can tailor the reuse and recycling processes to the customers’ needs. Today, we are also building new, more extensive circulation loops, where the recycled waste material does not necessarily return to the same business that generated the waste. By partnering with several different industry segments, the material can be used in totally new products, regardless of the material’s original use. It is one of the many ways to prolong the life of a material. With better recycling rates, we’ll have a significantly lesser need for virgin material, allowing the material used to have a prolonged life.
Building a market for recycled materials
As mentioned above, a higher recycling rate and grade help building new commodity markets for secondary or recycled materials. It is an essential step to help the industry as a whole to switch to a circular economy. One of the more critical incentives is to ensure that there is enough material for the companies producing recycled material products. And in the end, it can make the industry much more inclined to use secondary material, as virgin material possibly will be more expensive and complicated to use in the future. A larger market for recycled material will also be an incentive for creating even better recycling processes.
Higher recycling rates support a less negative climate impact
The energy consumption is significantly lower during material recycling than when extracting virgin resources. Lower energy consumption means reduced carbon dioxide emissions, which lead to increased climate benefits. When recycling, both energy, and virgin materials are saved. There is also a significant difference in carbon dioxide emissions when an industry uses recycled metals compared to using virgin material.
A few examples*:
- Recycling one tonne of steel saves 1.4 tonnes of iron ore, 0.8 tonnes of coal, 0.3 tonnes of limestone and additives, and 1.67 tonnes of CO2.
- Using steel scrap instead of virgin ore reduces CO2 emissions by 58%.
- By using aluminium scrap, CO2 emissions can be reduced by 92% compared to raw aluminium.
- Using recycled steel to make new steel reduces air pollution by 86%, water use by 40%, and water pollution by 76%.
* Source: EuRIC Metal Recycling Factsheet
Higher recycling rates in the entire value chain
It is essential to do right at the source. To care for the resources we have, we must identify every place that affects them. As mentioned before, recycling waste won’t by itself do the trick. To achieve a significantly higher degree of recycling, we must identify the resources, see their value, create markets for secondary material, and find new reuse and recycling processes.
We need to design better, waste less in the production line, and take care of much more material otherwise lost in production. For example, it’s smart to ensure your procurers demand the subcontractors to use more recycled raw material.
Being part of a sustainable economy builds your brand
A higher grade of recycling supports global initiatives towards a circular and sustainable economy. Decreasing the carbon dioxide footprint and lifting the waste hierarchy material will help a company’s brand communication and market offering.
As we recycle more, climate benefits will increase. Note that the actual climate benefit becomes more significant the more we can reuse and recycle, for example, in your business. A higher degree of reuse and recycling of materials brings more value for everyone.
Several gains and benefits are coming from recycling to a higher degree. These benefits include saving material, time, energy and having a less negative climate impact. By making sure your business is benefiting from a higher recycling rate, you also contribute to a more sustainable society.
Are you in control of your recycling rate?