Second Law of Thermodynamics

Second Law of Thermodynamics

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The second law of thermodynamics involves the concept of entropy, an idea that explains disorder in our world. The concept of entropy associates useful matter and waste with low entropy and high entropy, respectively. In order to look at entropy, we must first define the system of interest. For the remainder of this paper, the system will be Earth. Many people believe that everything we use up can be recycled and reused if we can develop the appropriate technology. However, the Second Law makes it essentially impossible to achieve complete recycling. Work must be put in to recycle waste; such an idea seems to work against the idea of the Second Law. From an economical standpoint, I believe that it is not worth recycling wasted goods according to the ideas of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In the following paragraphs, I will demonstrate how entropy is objective as well as explain the energy consumption of recycling.

The concept of entropy is objective. In contrast, resources, contaminants, and wasted goods are subjective. The objectiveness of entropy relies on the following question: why should humans be the criteria to determine the value of matter and whether recycling is worth it? To determine whether matter is worth recycling, we must not only look at the input energy but also the relevance to a particular society. In other words, what is considered a wasteful good not worth recycling for one society could be worth recycling for another society. Therefore, the objectiveness of entropy in terms of the value of recycling really depends on the society and whether the costs of recycling are less than the costs of making new products. Looking at our system, I believe that the energy required to recycle works against the Second Law because of the organization caused by recycling (opposing the Second Law)..

In order to recycle a used product, we must insert additional energy in the collection, transportation, and recycling of used materials. This energy consumption contributes to the overall entropy of the environment. Thus, waste can be recycled only by the expenditure of additional energy and at the expense of increasing the entropy of the system as a whole. Recycling could be worth our efforts if society would be able to coordinate the rate of production into useful, low entropy resources. According to

Dr. Mayumi, "the economic process consists of two parts: one is production/consumption in which raw materials are transformed into useful economic goods, and the other is consumption in which low entropy inputs are utilized, ultimately resulting in high entropy wastes.

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" In our system, recycling processes include an extensive amount of energy; an amount of energy that could be useful in other aspects of our society.

In conclusion, from an economical standpoint, it is cheaper to excavate fresh material than to recycle waste. As long as there is an adequate influx of energy, it is possible, from the theoretical standpoint, to achieve complete recycling of matter. However, practical reasons including costs, time, and the amount of energy required for recycling prevent such ideal conditions. While recycling helps to reduce waste, in the end it still leaves remains of unusable waste. In other words, while the quantity of energy remains the same before and after a physical transformation, there is still a qualitative difference between useful and unusable waste.

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