For many people, manufacturing and recycling seem like opposing ideas.
After all, one is an industry built around production and the other is built around reusing waste. However, recycling actually plays a key role in supplying manufacturers with crucial inputs and commodities that they go on to use in their production chain. Rather than being opposites, recycling and manufacturing consist of two halves in a loop that serves the economy by creating what people want in the most efficient way possible. This is true for plastic recycling, scrap, auto recycling, computer and electronics recycling, and anything else from basic materials to finished goods that are broken or not needed. In this post, we will discuss in detail how recycling contributes to the economy, especially in light of National Manufacturing Day.
Depending on where you live, recycling might be optional or required. It is often not clear exactly what recycling means. The recycling from houses and companies is collected and brought to central processing facilities. There, workers sort and separate it into different categories based on material, size, and other factors. What happens to recycled items after that depends on what they are made of. For example, pure metals like the aluminum in a soda can are useful in their current form. Metal items might be crushed, broken down, and then melted together into useful blocks or ingots. The recycling plant can then sell this scrap metal to manufacturing companies. It might become raw material for producing more of the same product, contribute to making something else, or take on an entirely different use. A more complex item like a car or computer needs more work to break down at the plant because it is made of different materials in different shapes and configurations. Sometimes salvaged electronics still work. Other times, the copper in the wires or the plastic in the cases might be useful on their own.
Recycling plants are becoming increasingly sophisticated at recycling a greater variety of items. This is important because the more we can recycle, the fewer waste there truly is. In some examples, like the aforementioned soda cans and bottles, most of the material in the final product is recycled. This is a significant boon to manufacturing because it gives them a cheap way to make use of the bottles and cans that would otherwise be discarded. All of those parts can now be of use in their own manufacturing. If recycling was not available, the manufacturer would need to find plastic and aluminum somewhere else and likely at a greater price.
Recycling as a whole constitutes an enormous amount of economic activity. In fact, some cities have started setting goals of eventually being able to recycle close to 100 percent of their waste. All of that saved material means a savings for the manufacturer, a better environmental impact, and lower prices for customers. It is difficult to come up with a final tally for all of these effects combined, but considering how much America recycles, the number will be large. Not all recycling and scrap is used by local manufacturers. Some of it is sold abroad for other nations to use in their own manufacturing. This turns trash directly into profits.
National Manufacturing Day
The bottom line is that as we celebrate National Manufacturing Day, we should also keep in mind how significant recycling is for our manufacturing industries. This goes for all kinds of recycling, because anything that can be recycled can become an input. Traditionally, we think of manufacturing as something that converts raw materials into final goods that we consume. Now, however, it’s time to pay more attention to what happens to things that we are done using. They can reenter the production cycle and become inputs once again. It’s a powerful way to tap into a resource that would be wasted otherwise. Manufacturing is all about the most efficient and powerful processes, and recycling is certainly one of those.