Agroecology Knowledge Hub

Recycling: more recycling means agricultural production with lower economic and environmental costs

Waste is a human concept – it does not exist in natural ecosystems. By imitating natural ecosystems, agroecological practices support biological processes that drive the recycling of nutrients, biomass and water within production systems, thereby increasing resource-use efficiency and minimizing waste and pollution.

Recycling can take place at both farm-scale and within landscapes, through diversification and building of synergies between different components and activities. For example, agroforestry systems that include deep rooting trees can capture nutrients lost beyond the roots of annual crops. Crop–livestock systems promote recycling of organic materials by using manure for composting or directly as fertilizer, and crop residues and by-products as livestock feed. Nutrient cycling accounts for 51 percent of the economic value of all non-provisioning ecosystem services, and integrating livestock plays a large role in this. Similarly, in rice–fish systems, aquatic animals help to fertilize the rice crop and reduce pests, reducing the need for external fertilizer or pesticide inputs.

Recycling delivers multiple benefits by closing cycles and reducing waste that translates into lower dependency on external resources, increasing the autonomy of producers and reducing their vulnerability to market and climate shocks. Recycling organic materials and by-products offers great potential for agroecological innovations.


The Proceedings book includes the contributions from agreocology experts and practitioners that took part as speakers in the International Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in China held Kunming, Yunnan, China from 29-31 August 2016. The volume has been prepared in order to collect and disseminate further...
Conference proceedings
The aim of this study was to determine nitrogen use efficiency and reduce environmental pollution caused by excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer in pea-maize intercropping fields in irrigated areas of Hexi Corridor, Gansu Province. To that end, a field experiment was conducted in 2011 to determine the spatial and temporal...
Journal article
Featuring cases in different sectors and countries around the world, this publication introduces the agroecology approach to linking food, livelihoods and natural resources, presents 10 Elements of Agroecology, and looks at ways of scaling up the people-centred approach to ensure its potential impact is fully realized, promising a brighter future...
Agroecology is not a new invention. It can be identified in scientific literature since the 1920s, and has found expression in family farmers’ practices, in grassroots social movements for sustainability and the public policies of various countries around the world. More recently, agroecology has entered the discourse of international and UN...
Lecture: "Sustainable Farming through Agroecology" by Stephen Gliessman with Mark Bittman