You finish up your can of Coke and you toss it in the trashcan. No big deal, the tree-huggers won’t miss a single can in their bid to take over the world with this whole “recycling” thing. I mean, the stuff they use to recycle stuff is worse for the environment anyway right? Throw out that used motor oil, it’s not worth driving to the gas station for them to take it, and it doesn’t really matter. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Recycling saves a lot of raw materials (which we are rapidly running out of) and it saves a lot of processing (read: OIL).
Oil has made big news lately with the price of a barrel of sweet sweet light crude topping $55 the last few days (but have since retreated) and talk of the national price of gasoline breaking the $2 barrier (by a third of a cent, but still…). Did you know that to make two and a half quarts of oil it only takes a gallon of used oil? To make it from straight crude, it takes 42 gallons. All your savings are in raw materials because with oil you don’t process it again, you just clean the oil since it hasn’t gone “bad,” it’s just gotten dirty.
If you recycle a ton of glass, you will save yourself 1.2 tons of raw materials and approximately 860-kilowatt hours of electricity (the equivalent of 18% of the energy needed to make new glass). Recycling one glass bottle could power a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.
Tin cans are really steel cans coated in tin and in the recycling process the tin and steel are separated. If you recycle a ton of tin or steel, you are saving yourself 1.2 tons of ore. With tin, you save around 2,600 kilowatt-hours per ton and with steel, about 4,300 kilowatt-hours per ton. Every ton of recycled steel saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,000 of coal, and 40 pounds of limestone.
Here is the big winner, so before you toss that Coke can into the trash, read up. Aluminium is the easiest to recycle because they just melt it down and cast it into molds. You will save around 64,300 kilowatt-hours per ton of aluminium that you recycle, around 96% of the energy than if you were processing bauxite ore. What that amounts to in “real” terms is that aluminium can will power a computer or television for three hours. It also happens to be the equivalent to half a gallon of gasoline.
Paper (Cardboard, newspaper, etc)
Paper is made of wood pulp and a ton of recycled paper saves about three tons of wood pulp, or about 3,000-kilowatt hours. You would see a 23% energy savings per ton of paper.
Plastic is the second biggest energy saver when it comes to recycling. If you recycle PET plastics (Code #1), a ton of that stuff will save you 7,200 kilowatt hours.
Did that little treatise open up your eyes a little as to the power of recycling? Think about how much oil we need for the processing of any of those materials and you will realize how reliant we are on foreign oil. Recycling reduces that reliance and it also helps our environment tremendously. Think about it next time you toss out that aluminium can or computer printout in the trash.