The Different Methods of Recycling Around the World

Jane Marsh - June 6, 2022

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In the U.S., residents hold high recycling responsibilities. They must clean, disassemble and sort their recyclable materials before placing them in their blue bins. Additionally, individuals have to pay for their single-stream systems, decreasing sustainability’s accessibility.

There are different methods of recycling around the world, which America may learn from. Creating an efficient and available system can decrease atmospheric and surface-level pollution, conserving natural resources. Before evaluating the top recycling regions and processes, we must assess the demand for material reuse.

The Drive for Recycling

In school, we learn the importance of recycling and its relation to sustainability. Teachers fail to explain the correlation between material reuse and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, they generate urgency for placing recyclables in the single-stream bins.

Stanford University displayed the importance of recycling in a recent project. They processed 62% of their garbage and decreased the size of their landfill by 35%. Additionally, the university reduced its gasoline use by 567,314 gallons.

Limiting their fossil fuel reliance significantly improves the local environment, increasing the air and water quality. It also decreases the emissions related to manufacturing new materials. Producing one 500-milliliter plastic water bottle releases nearly 82.8 grams of carbon emissions.

During the combustion of fossil fuels, air pollutants invade the atmosphere, altering its natural composition. Earth relies on the atmosphere’s ability to generate heat, creating life-sufficient surface temperatures. When emissions change the process, they produce adverse ecological impacts.

Naturally, Earth takes in solar radiation, creates heat, warms its surface, gathers excess energy and emits it to space. Greenhouse gases trap extra energy in the environment, refueling the heating process. They also have a higher sunlight-to-heat exchange rate, raising Earth’s temperature over time.

Poor recycling processes also generate microplastics, harming the aquatic ecosystem and humanity. When fish consume plastic, it works its way back up the food chain, ending up in human consumers. Individuals can protect the atmosphere, the global ecosystem and themselves by engaging in effective recycling methods.

When enhancing a community’s recycling processes, evaluating successful methods around the world is essential. America struggles to adopt adequate procedures, only recycling nearly 70 million tons of landfill waste annually. There are four countries with the best system models helping less sustainable nations create efficient practices.

1. Germany

In 2015, Germany recycled nearly 66.1% of its waste. The country produced 402.2 million metric tons of waste and recycled 317.7 million metric tons of it. It also uses renewable energy to process a portion of its materials, decreasing atmospheric degradation.

Germans also use a Green Dot system increasing general awareness around recyclables. Like America’s triangular Reduce, Reuse, Recycle symbol, the green dot helps consumers efficiently manage their materials. The country also developed a packaging act reducing landfill waste.

The German Packaging Act holds manufacturers responsible for the waste of their products throughout their life cycles. Companies must pay a fee when placing goods on the market using packaging materials. The country utilizes the act to promote a circular economy.

2. Austria

Austria has the second-highest recycling rate, also using its systems to empower a circular economy. Rather than supporting the economy with emission-generating materials, the country repurposes old products, supporting employment and the environment.

The government also banned landfill waste with more than a 5% greenhouse gas emission rate. It holds consumers responsible for their garbage, and the Altstoff Recycling Austria (ARA) organization holds producers accountable. The ARA charges companies for their landfill waste production, also creating a circular economy.

Austria is also working towards a plastic bag ban. Many systems can only repurpose certain types of plastic, decreasing a general system’s efficiency. Banning all plastic reduces surface-level pollution and carbon emissions.

3. South Korea

South Korea is the only country outside of Europe with a high recycling rate. It is also placing bans on certain packaging materials to enhance their sustainability. The government will soon eliminate companies’ use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and colored containers.

They also plan on phasing out disposable cups and building materials, like plastic screws. South Korea once collected and sold recycled items, and regulation limitations created a shift in processing practices.

4. Switzerland

Switzerland is another country with the top practices for recycling around the world. It uses a Polluters Pay policy, holding individuals accountable for their landfill waste production. The government also holds manufacturers responsible for their pollution, having them conduct a life cycle assessment of their goods before placing them on the market.

The country places 0% of its municipal solid waste in landfills. Instead, professionals recycle over half of the materials and convert the other portion into energy. America and individual consumers can evaluate the zero-waste method and adopt reduction techniques.

How You Can Reduce Landfill Waste  

You can reduce landfill waste by using reusable packages instead of disposable versions. Additionally, you may save and reuse excess materials when you can. Over time, small efforts create measurable impacts. 

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.