Most recycled materials require less energy in their production than the equivalent amount of product made from raw materials. For example, the production of aluminium from aluminium cans requires 95% less energy than production of the same quantity of aluminium from bauxite. Recycling paper reduces the volume of materials going to landfill and uses about 28% less energy to produce than virgin paper.

The availability of a recycling infrastructure, however, is critical. If materials have to be transported over large distances during collection and reprocessing, the environmental argument becomes less clear cut and economic constraints can seriously reduce the viability of recycling schemes.