Advantages of Recycling

Specification Point 4.10:
  • Evaluate the advantages of recycling metals, including economic implications and how recycling can preserve both the environment and the supply of valuable raw materials.

Economic Implications

  • It is economically beneficial to recycle metals, especially those that are costly to extract such as aluminium.
  • Recycling is fast becoming a major industry and provides employment which feeds back into the economy.

Environment

  • Mining and extracting metal from ores has detrimental effects on the environment and its natural habitats.
  • It is much more energy efficient to recycle metals than it is to extract them as melting and re-moulding requires less energy.
  • Recycling decreases the amount of waste produced, hence saving space at landfill sites and energy in transport.

Raw Materials

  • There is a limited supply of every material on Earth.
  • As global populations increase there is a greater need for effective recycling methods to attain sustainable development.
  • Mining and extraction use up valuable fossil fuels, which contributes to climate change.

Product Lifetime

Specification Point 4.11:
  • Describe that a lifetime assessment for a product involves consideration of the effect on the environment of obtaining the raw materials, manufacturing the product, using the product and disposing of the product when it is no longer useful.
  • A life-cycle assessment is an analysis of the overall environmental impact that a product may have throughout its lifetime. 
  • The cycle is broken down into four main stages which are:
    • Raw Materials
    • Manufacture
    • Usage
    • Disposal

Life Cycle Assessment, Edexcel GCSE Chemistry

Diagram showing the four main stages in a life-cycle assessment

  • Obtaining the necessary raw materials has an impact on the environment which may include:
    • Using up limited resources such as ores and crude oil.
    • Damaging habitats through deforestation or mining.
  • Manufacturing processes also have an impact on the environment which may include:
    • Using up land for factories.
    • The use of machines for production and transport.
  • Usage of a product may also affect the environment although it depends on the type of product. For example, a wooden desk has very little impact whereas a car will have a significant impact (air pollution).
  • The disposal of outdated products has an impact on the environment which may include:
    • Using up space at landfill sites.
    • Whether the product or its parts can be recycled.

Product Life Cycle Data

Specification Point 4.12:
  • Evaluate data from a life cycle assessment of a product.
  • A life cycle assessment is carried out using the data of a given product and the criteria of the assessment.
  • Rarely is there a perfect product with zero environmental impact, so often a compromise is made between environmental impact and economic factors.

Example

  • A motorcycle production company is developing plans for three new models. It wishes to select one model and add it to its current portfolio. The company has decided to perform a life-cycle assessment to decide which motorbike is more in-line with the company’s new environmental policy. 
  • The data from the production of a prototype for each model is below. Using the data, perform a life cycle assessment and suggest which model the company should manufacture.

Continental Cruiser

  • This model produces the least amount of CO2 but has the second highest level of solid waste and water usage.

Revered Roadie

  • This model produces more CO2 than the first model but has much less solid waste and the least amount of water usage of all three. It also has the longest lifespan, hence this option is at the moment viable.

Dakota Devil

  • This model produces the highest amount of CO2, produces more solid waste and uses more water than any other model. It also has the shortest lifespan, hence this model can be disqualified.

Conclusion

Considering all three life-cycle assessments, it’s clear that Revered Roadie is the model which would have the least environmental impact. It’s also possible that in the near future mechanisms will be developed that can be added to the motorbike to reduce the levels of CO2 it produces.

Edexcel GCSE Chemistry Notes

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Morgan Curtin Chemistry

Author: Morgan

Morgan’s passion for the Periodic Table begun on his 10th birthday when he received his first Chemistry set. After studying the subject at university he went on to become a fully fledged Chemistry teacher, and now works in an international school in Madrid! In his spare time he helps create our fantastic resources to help you ace your exams.