Recycling benefits the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving natural resources and putting less pressure on landfills. Recycling at the individual level has environmental benefits, such as reducing contamination of streams and waterways. However, industrial recycling efforts significantly reduce the volume of pollutants in the water and air by limiting the need for energy associated with manufacturing processes.
Manufacturing plants and other industrial processes use tremendous amounts of electricity to produce a variety of consumer goods, ranging from plastics and textiles to furniture, fabrics and clothing. As consumers use more of these products, demand for their production increases, which in turn requires factories to extend their hours of operation. As they conduct business, however, industrial facilities burn fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel and coal. By recycling products, consumers can alleviate the need for factories to work overtime, which reduces the need for extracting the fuels needed for electricity. Recycling also reduces air and water pollutants by decreasing the need to extract and process timber, coal and other materials from the Earth. The transformation of materials into products requires heavy use of resources, and releases harmful toxins such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and methane into the air. Recycling alleviates the need for raw material extraction, which prevents overconsumption of resources and preserves natural resources.