The environmental benefits of recycling

The recycling industry is making a substantial contribution to the improvement of our environment by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, delivering significant energy and water savings, as well as conserving non-renewable virgin resources.

Some of the greatest environmental benefits of recycling are in the conservation of energy and natural resources and the prevention of pollution when recycled material, rather than raw material, is used to make a new product. Manufacturing materials the second time around is much cleaner and less energy intensive than when using raw materials.

Life cycle analysis (LCA)* modelling has shown that by substituting secondary-use materials for virgin materials the environmental benefits from reprocessing all material recovered in 2010-11 would be equivalent to:

  • saving almost 93 million gigajoules of energy
  • preventing more than 5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere (equivalent to taking 817,000 cars off the road)
  • saving more than 61,000 megalitres of water (enough to fill more than 24,000 Olympi-sized swimming pools).

* RMIT University, Centre for Design, Life Cycle Impact Data for Resource Recovery from C&I and C&D Waste in Victoria, September 2005

Annual Survey of Recycling Industries Fact Sheets

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Construction and demolition waste recovery