Why is it so important to recycle our waste?

Most of us know that recycling is good and supposed to help the environment- but do we really know why?

Let’s find out.

To start with, humans create tonnes of waste each year. Most of the waste is sent to incineration and some ends up in landfills around the world. Unfortunately, some of this waste has ended up in the ocean, creating harmful ‘trash islands’ or garbage dumps that have long lasting effects on sea life and eco-systems.

By recycling properly, we can reuse and repurpose these materials, so they do not end up in incineration or landfills. Incineration which has been the most common way to handle waste, creates too much CO2.

Waste is very high in value, which is why we should recycle it and make it into new products. By recycling instead of disposing we can reduce the high level of CO2 emissions coming from incineration. And we can benefit from the materials that have already been produced once. This way we create a circular economy in which materials go again and again.

What does a circular economy mean?

To understand a circular economy, we need to explain a linear economy.

A linear economy is where we dispose of everything we use without recycling or reusing. This results in constant production as well as a lot of waste – and we need to move away from this.

We should move towards a circular economy where waste is being recycled or reused and materials are kept in the usage loop. This way of dealing with waste is a ‘building block’ in the European Union’s Green Deal as well as the waste hierarchy.

What kind of waste management options do we have?

The waste hierarchy helps us to work towards a circular economy. It gives  a clear overview of how to work with our waste.

The hierarchy shows what we should implement above the red line:

  • Prevention is the ultimate goal where we minimize our usage and try not to have any waste.
  • Preparation for re-use is making sure that materials are ready for repurpose or reuse.
  • Recycling This is where we sort our waste so it can be recycled for new materials.

The hierarchy also shows that we should avoid those below the red line:

  • Recovery means burning materials that transfer energy to heat and that is why we have done it for so many years. This also creates a lot of CO2.
  • Disposal is where we throw out materials, where the waste will end up in landfills, garbage dumps or the ocean.



We sort our household waste. But does it really make a difference?

We may sort and recycle our waste really without understanding the importance.

What we can say is that recycling is important. Recycling makes a difference in making one person’s waste another person’s new product.

Our planet does not have unlimited resources and as the EU commission states ‘there is only one planet earth, yet by 2050, the world will be consuming as if there were three’. Our planet does have enough raw materials to provide to our growing population and the constant CO2 emissions in production. This leads to more and more waste that we are already struggling to handle which is a structure we need move away from.


What guidance do we follow?

Legislation is being implemented in Europe and globally. The European Union hopes to close the waste loop by implementing a Circular Economy Action Plan and use the waste hierarchy as a recycling visual.

As well as the EU’s action plan the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, also focuses on recycling as well as circularity.

The EU Circular Economy Action Plan and SDG goals is a steppingstone to lowering our waste, but we all need to do our part for these goals to make a difference.