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Find out about recycling in this enjoyable quiz.


Recycling and reusing appear in two threads that run through the GCSE geography syllabus - climate change and sustainability. There must be an international, national and local united response to the threat of global climate change and sustainable development must ensure that the environment is protected and that there are sufficient resources left for future generations.

Globalisation and industrialisation increases the amount of waste that is produced. As the wealth of a country increases, the demand for consumer items also increases. Waste is produced as a result of the manufacturing of the items, from the packaging and when the items reach the end of their useful life. Manufacturing any item requires energy so the more items that are manufactured, the greater the energy costs.

Most energy comes from non-renewable sources that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere so any reduction in the amount of goods manufactured will have a positive impact on the human-made element of climate change. The more goods that are manufactured now means that resources will be used up and unavailable to future generations. A reduction in manufacturing therefore also aids with sustainability.

On the other hand, manufacturers don't want a reduction in the volume of items they are making as it means reduced profits. If an industry is the main source of income for an emerging economy, the government will not want a reduction in the manufacturing volume either. This gives rise to a conflict of interest and so international cooperation is not always possible.

At a national level, the British government sets recycling targets for local councils which they can try to achieve by encouraging both recycling and reusing items where possible. Recycling and reusing is not something that can be forced onto individuals at a local level. Local councils provide separate bins for waste and materials that can be recycled as well as recycling collection points. This relies on the population to make a small effort to sort out their waste into items that can be recycled and those which can't. Local byelaws can be established concerning recycling but it is only really practical to direct these at local businesses. Schools and communities also play their part by putting in place as many recycling measures as they can as well as educating people about the need for recycling and reusing items. There are people for whom recycling is too much of a chore, so there will always be a small proportion of potentially recyclable materials lost to landfill.

Many of the larger retailers have zero waste to landfill policies. They aim to recycle all of their waste and avoid using materials that cannot be recycled. They carry out an audit of absolutely every material that they use to find out when and where waste is being created. They can then plan strategies to reduce it.

Supermarkets are known for wasting a lot of perfectly good food just because it has gone past its 'sell by' date. Non-animal products can be sent for composting but this is not widely practised. Most of it is simply thrown away. Some people believe that throwing perfectly edible food away is wrong and have set up businesses to buy it from supermarkets and re-sell it.

Another method of recycling and reusing materials that would otherwise end up in landfill is called upcycling. This involves taking objects like old baths, industrial pallets, snowboards and a huge variety of other items and then modifying them to be used as lamps, chairs, sofas, tables, garden seats and other household items.

What is recycling?
Going round in circles
Using waste materials to make new materials
Reshaping plastics
Taking a product and repairing it
Not all materials can be recycled, for example certain types of plastic like bakelite
Which of the following cannot be recycled?
Dried paint
Copper pipe
Plastic bottles
It is inevitable that some materials will end up in landfills, not everything can be recycled or reused
Why is recycling important?
It reduces the amount of waste going into landfill
It can help to reduce the amount of energy used by the secondary sector of industry
It conserves resources for future generations
All of the above
There are many benefits to recycling
Wood can be recycled to make...
panel boards like MDF and chipboard
It is not possible to recycle wood
Panel boards are used in the construction industry and for making flat-pack furniture. Other things made from recycled wood include animal bedding, landscaping surfaces and play area surfaces
Why does recycling metals reduce the amount of energy required to make metal items?
The recycled metal does not need to be extracted from its ore
It is lighter
The people who collect the metals for recycling pay steelworks to take it away
All of the above
Getting a metal from its ore takes a lot of energy. Recycling metals like iron and steel means that they only have to be melted, which takes a lot less energy than starting with the ore in the ground
How does recycling make a positive contribution to climate change?
It uses less energy so fewer greenhouse gases go into the air
The gases given off when a material is recycled are different to the ones that cause the greenhouse effect
Carbon dioxide is absorbed by the materials during recycling
The gases given off during recycling are easier to absorb
Manufacturing items from raw materials takes more energy, most of which comes from burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Recycling takes less energy so less carbon dioxide goes into the air
Apart from helping with climate change, recycling is sensible because...
items made from recycled materials are always cheaper
it creates more landfill
it helps a LEDC develop into a MEDC
it conserves the Earth's resources
This means that many resources that we use today will still be available to future generations
Why are alloys difficult to recycle?
They don't melt
They are too heavy
They are toxic
They are mixtures of metals
However hard we try, there will always be some materials that we cannot recycle
Which of the following is not an advantage of recycling metals?
Less energy is required
Collection and sorting takes time and money
Slows down the rate at which non-renewable resources are used up
Less rubbish going into landfills
Collection of any material for recycling requires the use of energy, however, there are more advantages than disadvantages of recycling metals
Repairing and reusing for personal use is widespread in LEDCs. Which of the following is the best explanation?
It saves them money
They are better educated and realise that repairing and reusing items is important
They want to save the world from destruction
It is the law
The population of a LEDC is generally much poorer than populations of MEDCs and must repair and reuse as much as they can
Author:  Kev Woodward

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