Limited Resources and Recycling

Humans are constantly producing materials that we need for our everyday lives. For example:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Metals
  • Clay ceramics

All of the above are produced from raw materials, which are limited in supply and some of which get more scarce every day. We can acquire raw materials through quarrying or mining.

A quarry scene where a yellow loader is filling a red lorry with gravel. The lorry is parked on a rugged path between mounds of gravel, with steep brown and grey rock faces in the background. In the foreground, a few sparse green plants are visible on the edge of the scene.
A panoramic view of a mining operation nestled between rolling hills. In the centre, a loader is at work amidst mounds of earth. On either side, large blue machinery, including conveyor belts, is actively processing the mined materials. Overhead, the sky is overcast, casting a muted light on the scene.

These methods used to acquire resources are harmful to the environment. For example, quarrying destroys animal habitats and produces a large amount of dust.

Converting these raw materials into useful products requires a lot of energy. This energy often comes from limited resources, such as fossil fuels.

We can protect the environment by using fewer natural resources. One way to do this is by recycling and reusing products. This not only saves resources but also cuts down on waste that typically ends up in landfills. Also, using fewer resources means using less energy, which helps to reduce the need for fossil fuels.

Recycling Materials

It’s important to recycle materials such as:

  • Metal
  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Glass
A waste management illustration featuring five colourful bins lined up, each labelled and filled with its respective type of waste. From left to right: a green bin for glass with glass items inside, a blue bin for e-waste with electronic items, a red bin for metal with metallic items, an orange bin for paper with paper products, and a grey bin for organic waste with food scraps. Above the bins, there's a recycling logo and the words "WASTE MANAGEMENT".

If we don’t, they will end up taking up space in landfills.

Metals

An example of a limited resource is metal, which we can melt down and reshape into different products. However, recycling metals can be challenging as they often need to be separated into different types before they can be recycled. The amount of separation required depends on the desired properties of the final product.

Paper

Recycling paper involves breaking it down into smaller pieces and turning it into new sheets of paper. This method is cheaper and requires less energy than producing new paper from trees.

Some common uses for recycled paper include:

  • Toilet paper
  • Cardboard
  • Magazines and newspapers

Plastic

Not all plastics can be recycled. However, by recycling the ones that can be recycled, we can decrease our use of fossil fuels in creating new plastics. Recycling plastics also reduces the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills.

An example of plastic recycling is turning plastic bottles into a variety of items, such as packaging or plant pots.

Glass

Recycling glass is straightforward as it can be melted down and reshaped into new products. This process requires less energy and is cheaper than producing new glass from raw materials.

Reusing or crushing and melting down glass bottles can be used to make other glass products, like jars.

Sustainable development

Sustainable development is about ensuring that we can meet the current needs without making life on our planet more difficult for future generations.

An example of this is using more wind energy. In recent years, wind power has become more competitive and cost-effective compared to electricity generated from coal.

A tall wind turbine stands atop a lush green hill, with a backdrop of rolling hills and distant mountains bathed in soft evening light, under a clear sky with a gentle gradient from blue to warm orange.

Wind turbines are an effective method of generating energy because they are relatively low-cost and do not require a large amount of land. This means that different types of land can be used alongside wind turbines, such as farming or conservation.

As the cost of wind power continues to decrease, more communities around the world are adopting it as a source of electricity.

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