"It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed."
(Green Chemistry Principles, Dr. Paul Anastas et al)

The concept of recycling is very broad. Re-using a plastic carrier bag is a form of recycling, and so is chemical remanufacture from waste plastic. All recycling, however, is concerned with one thing: trying to ensure that, as a society, we make the most effective use of the resources available.

Sources of Waste

Manufacturing waste has long been recycled. This is the case with metals like steel and aluminium, and also with plastics. Recycling is easier when the composition of the scrap material is known.

photo: landfill site

Most UK domestic waste has for years been put into landfill (buried in the ground). As existing sites become full, new sites must be located further away from the centres of population, increasing costs. The recycling of materials after use ("post-consumer") is becoming increasingly important, but it presents different problems to manufacturing waste:

  • It has to be collected economically from many locations
  • Identification of composition and separation into different waste "streams" is necessary
  • Removal of dirt, labels, paint and other coatings may be needed

EU Directives

In the UK and other European countries some of the pressure for increasing recycling comes from several EU directives.

Landfill Directive(99/31/EC)

Reduce quantity of biodegradable waste going to landfill

Whole and shredded tyres banned from landfill from 2003 and 2006 respectively

End-of-Life Vehicle Directive(2000/53/EC)

Vehicles to be made more easy to recycle
80% of vehicle weight to be recycled by 2006, 85% by 2015

Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive(2002/96/EC) Recovery and recycling of materials from electrical goods
Treatment of hazardous components of electrical goods


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