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Recycling Facts

March 3, 2009 12:04 by human

Recycling is essential to green living and conserving our Earth's resources so that future generations will have enough of all nature has to offer.

Recycling Tips to Keep in Mind

If you are aware of the need to save resources and to reuse products, or help out so that they can be used again, then you are well on the road to recycling. Today recycling is commonplace in the United States. Whereas ten years ago many were unfamiliar with this practice, now schools, businesses, churches and offices, as well as homes are on the track to recycling.

Keep the following tips handy:

Use your recycling bin both at home and in your office. Offices generate a lot of paper usage and waste.
Learn to think about products and whether or not they are biodegradable (easily decomposed).
Buy items that are made from resources that can be recycled. For example, every year Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups. Although convenient to use, these cups are not recyclable and therefore take up precious landfill space.
Teach your children and those around you to make recycling cans, glass and paper a lifestyle practice.

Key Recycling Facts

For those who want to know why recycling is important, consider these facts:

  • Most new aluminum cans are made from 50 percent recycled aluminum.
  • Enough energy is saved by recycling one aluminum can to run a TV set for three hours.
  • A steel mill which uses recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by at least 70 percent.
  • Recycled aluminum is made into pie pans, new cans, house siding, small appliances, and lawn furniture.
  • Creating one ton of recycled paper uses only about 60 percent of the energy needed to make a ton of virgin paper.
  • Seventeen trees are saved for each ton of recycled newspaper.
  • The average American uses 650 pounds of paper during the course of one year. 100 million tons of wood could be saved each year if all the used paper was recycled.
  • Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74 percent of the energy necessary to produce them.
  • If every American household recycled one out of every ten HDPE (high density polyethylene) bottles, this would keep 200 million pounds of plastic out of landfills every year.
  • Today most bottles and jars contain at least 25 percent recycled glass.
  • Recycled plastic is made into plastic lumber, clothing, insulation for sleeping bags and ski jackets, flower pots and car bumpers.
  • In the US, 95 percent of scrap automobiles were recycled in 2000. This was at a rate of 25 cars every minute.

Purchasing Environmentally Friendly Products

Stores sell earth-friendly tableware, containers, and even trash bags. You can also order these products online at the following sites:

Biodegradable Store
Simply Biodegradable

Learn and Teach

Make these recycling facts part of your everyday life. We can change the way we use resources one person at a time. As you learn and pass on your knowledge and passion for recycling onto others, they too, can become more efficient and effective at recycling. In order for us to continue as a thriving society, recycling facts must play a vital role in the life of every citizen of the United States. Support the companies and industries which are noted for recycling, and encourage those who are not, to step on the road to saving our environment.

Remember that when discarded items are placed in your regular trash can, they will be used to cover landfills. When items are placed in the recycle containers, they will be reused to make new products.

Via: LoveToKnow GreenLiving

How Does Recycling Paper Help Landfills

February 26, 2009 08:50 by human

One question that often gets asked is how does recycling paper help landfills?

This is an important question to address. As with any form of recycling, knowing the reasons why it is important and appreciating the benefits makes it easier to put recycling into practice.

Historically waste has been buried in landfill sites. Many important archaeological finds today are from what is basically an ancient landfill location. The nature of waste has changed, however, with many chemicals

and non or slow decomposing items filling up landfill sites. The volume of waste that is produced today has also escalated, meaning that alternatives to landfill must be sought.

Waste Paper in Landfills

When asking how does recycling paper help landfills, it is useful to get a perspective of the volume of waste paper produced. In the 21 years ending 1991, the consumption of paper in the U.S. doubled. As consumption increased, so did the volume of waste paper.

Around one-third of all household waste is paper. It is reported that a staggering 14 percent of landfill space is taken up by newspaper alone. Keeping paper out of landfill sites is the most important reason why paper is recycled. Reducing the amount of paper going into landfills therefore slows down the pace that landfill sites are filling.

Another benefit of keeping paper out of landfills is that decomposing paper releases methane gas, which is a potent greenhouse gas (20 times more potent than carbon dioxide). It is becoming increasingly more widely accepted that reducing greenhouse gases will help to slow down global warming. Therefore recycling paper has a wider global environmental benefit.

Other Benefits of Recycling Paper

As with many other forms of recycling, the energy used in recycling materials is much less than that used in working with virgin materials. The total amount of energy used to recycle paper can be anywhere between 28 percent and 70 percent less, which represents significant environmental benefits.

Recycled paper does not need re-bleaching, meaning that fewer harmful chemicals are released into the environment. On the occasions where bleaching is required, oxygen rather than chlorine is usually used. This reduces the amount of dioxins which are produced as a by-product of the chlorine bleaching processes.

A common misperception is that the main benefit of recycling paper is to save trees. While this is a feature, most paper now comes from sustainable wood supplies and from trees that are grown and harvested specifically for this purpose. As the trees are harvested, new trees are planted to replace those cut down. Paper is also made from parts of a tree that are unusable by other industries such as construction. Unlike other recycled products, some virgin wood pulp needs to be included in recycled paper. As paper is recycled, so the fibers get broken down each time, resulting eventually in fibers that are too short to use. Therefore a certain proportion of new wood pulp needs to be introduced each time. This means that there will always be a need for new trees to support the paper process, even with maximum recycling.

Buying Recycled Paper

While it is important to recycle paper, it is equally important to buy recycled paper products. This ensures that there is a ready market for recycled products. There are recycled paper alternatives to most paper products, including commercial as well as domestic items. Increasingly, many paper products include a percentage of recycled paper as ‘the norm.’ Famously, the last Harry Potter book was printed in Canada on recycled paper.

Further Reading To Help Answer The Question 'How Does Recycling Paper Help Landfills':
  • - National Recycling Coalition
  • - Tree Hugger website, packed with useful information
  • Energy Information Administration, page of recycling information specifically for children

Recycling paper is a relatively easy way to help make a difference. However, along with other household and garden recycling initiatives, even small steps towards more living can help make big changes..

Recycling Myths

February 24, 2009 13:03 by human
by Daniel Benjamin, November 15th, 2003 

Smothered in Garbage vs. More Landfill Capacity than Ever

Editor’s note: Recycling is not always the environmentally correct choice. Many items we recycle come from abundant raw materials and are inert and harmless when dumped. It costs more to recycle these than to bury the used and manufacture the new from scratch. Glass is a perfect example; plastic runs a close second. If throwing away glass and plastic causes us to ever run out of sand and oil byproducts we can mine the landfills and recycle them all at once - it would be cheaper and easier than perpetual recycling. There’s plenty of land for landfills, there’s very little hazard remaining in modern landfills, and the economics and the environment often favor using them. Trillions are squandered on needless recycling. So what myths prevent change?


Since the 1980s, people repeatedly have claimed that the United States faces a landfill crisis. Former Vice President Al gore, for example, asserted we are “running out of ways to dispose of our waste in a manner that keeps it out of either sight or mind.”

This claim originated in the 1980s, when the waste disposal industry moved to using fewer but much larger landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency, the press, and other commentators focused on the falling number of landfills, rather than on their growing overall capacity, and concluded that we were running out of space. The EPA also underestimated the prospects for creating additional capacity.

In fact, the United States today has more landfill capacity than ever before. In 2001, the nation’s landfills could accommodate 18 years’ worth of rubbish, an amount 25% greater than a decade before. To be sure, there are a few places where capacity has shrunk. But the uneven distribution of available landfill space is no more important than is the uneven distribution of auto manufacturing: Trash is an interstate business, with 47 states exporting the stuff and 45 importing it. Indeed, the total land area needed to hold all of America’s garbage for the next century would be only about 10 miles square.


The claim that our trash might poison us is impossible to completely refute, because almost anything might pose a threat. But the EPA itself acknowledges that the risks to humans (and presumably plants and animals) from modern landfills are virtually nonexistent: According to the EPA’s own estimates, modern landfills can be expected to cause 5.7 cancer-related deaths over the next 300 years - just one death every 50 years. To put this in perspective, cancer kills over 560,000 people every year in the United States.

Older landfills do possess a potential for harm to the ecosystem and to humans, especially when built on wetlands or swamps, because pollutants can leach from them. When located on dry land, however, even old-style landfills generally pose minimal danger, in part because remarkably little biodegradation takes place in them.

Modern landfills eliminate essentially any potential for problems. Siting occurs away from groundwater supplies, and the landfills are built on a foundation of several feet of dense clay, covered with thick plastic liners. This layer is covered by several feet of gravel or sand. Any leachate is drained out via collection pipes and sent to municipal wastewater plants for treatment. Methane gas produced by biodegradation is drawn off by wells on site and burned or purified and sold.


Contrary to current wisdom, packaging can reduce total rubbish produced. The average household in the united States generates one-third less trash each year than does the average household in Mexico, partly because packaging reduces breakage and food waste. Turning a live chicken into a meal creates food waste. When chickens are processed commercially, the waste goes into marketable products (such as pet food), instead of into a landfill. Commercial processing of 1,000 chickens requires about 17 pounds of packaging, but it also recycles at least 2,000 pounds of by-products.

The gains from packaging have been growing over time, because companies have been reducing the weight of the packages they use. During the late 1970s and 1980s, although the number of packages entering landfills rose substantially, the total weight of those discards declined by 40 percent. Over the past 25 years the weights of individual packages have been reduced by amounts ranging from 30 percent (2-liter soft drink bottles) to 70 percent (plastic grocery sacks and trash bags). Even aluminum beverage cans weigh 40 percent less than they used to.


Numerous commentators contend that each state should achieve “trash independence” by disposing within its borders all of its rubbish. But, as with all voluntary trade, interstate trade in trash raises our wealth as a nation, perhaps by as much as $4 billion. Most of the increased wealth accrues to the citizens of areas importing trash.

Not only is the potential threat posed by modern landfills negligible, but transporting rubbish across state lines has no effect on the environmental impact of its disposal. Moving a ton of trash by truck is no more hazardous than moving a ton of any other commodity.


In fact, available stocks of most natural resources are growing rather than shrinking, but the reason is not recycling. Market prices are the best measure of natural resource scarcity. Rising prices imply that a resources is getting more scarce. Falling prices imply that it is becoming more plentiful. Applying this measure to oil, we find that over the past 125 years, oil has become no more scarce, despite our growing use of it. Reserves of other fossil fuels as well as other natural resources are also growing.

Thanks to innovation, we now produce about twice as much output per unit of energy as we did 50 years ago and five times as much as we did 200 years ago. Optical fiber carries 625 times more calls than the copper wire of 20 years ago, bridges are built with less steel, and automobile and truck engines consume less fuel per unit of work performed. The list goes on and on. Human innovation continues to increase the amount of resources at our command.


Recycling is a manufacturing process with environmental impacts. Viewed across a wide spectrum of goods, recycling sometimes cuts pollution, but not always. The EPA has examined both virgin paper processing and recycled paper processing for toxic substances and found that toxins often are more prevalent in the recycling process.

Often the pollution associated with recycling shows up in unexpected ways. Curbside recycling, for example, requires that more trucks be used to collect the same amount of waste materials. Thus, Los Angeles has 800 rubbish trucks rather than 400, because of its curb-side recycling. This means more iron ore and coal mining, steel and rubber manufacturing, petroleum extraction and refining - and of course extra air pollution in the Los Angeles basin.


It is widely claimed that recycling “saves resources.” Proponants usually focus on savings of a specific resource, or they single out particularly successful examples such as the recycling of aluminum cans.

But using less of one resource generally means using more of other resources. Franklin Associates, a firm that consults on behalf of the EPA, has compared the costs per ton of handling rubbish through three methods: disposal into landfills (but with a voluntary drop-off or buy-back program, and an extensive curbside recycling program.

On average, extensive recycling is 35 percent more costly than conventional disposal, and basic curbside recycling is 55 percent more costly than conventional disposal. That is, curbside recycling uses far more resources. As one expert puts it, adding curbside recycling is “like moving from once-a-week garbage collection to twice a week.”


This view reflects ignorance about the extent of recycling in the private sector, which is as old as trash itself. Scavenging may, in fact, be the oldest profession. In the 19th century, people bid for the right to scavenge New York City’s rubbish, and Winslow Homer’s 1859 etching, Scene on the Back Bay Lands, reveals adults and children digging through the detritus of the Boston city dump. Rag dealers were a constant of American life until driven out of business by the federal Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939, which stigmatized products made of recycled wool and cotton. And long before state or local governments had even contemplated the word recycling, makers of steel, aluminum, and many other products were recycling manufacturing scraps, and some were even operating post-consumer drop-off centers.

Recycling is a long-practiced, productive, indeed essential, element of the market system. Informed, voluntary recycling conserves resources and raises our wealth. In sharp contrast, misleading educational programs encourage the waste of resources when they overstate the benefits of recycling. And mandatory recycling programs, in which people are compelled to do what they know is not sensible, routinely make society worse off. Market prices are sufficient to induce the trashman to come, and to make his burden bearable, and neither he no we can hope for any better than that.

Daniel K. Benjamin is professor of economics at Clemson University, a senior associate of the Political Economy Research Center (PERC), and a regular PERC columnist. This essay is adated from a longer paper, “Eight Great Myths of Recycling,” which is available from PERC.



Facts About Recycling

October 27, 2008 21:51 by human


Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours -- or the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline.

* 350,000 aluminum cans are produced every minute!

* More aluminum goes into beverage cans than any other product
* Once an aluminum can is recycled, it can be part of a new can within six weeks.

* Because so many of them are recycled, aluminum cans account for less than 1% of the total U.S. waste stream, according to EPA estimates.

* During the time it takes you to read this sentence, 50,000 12-ounce aluminum cans are made.

* An aluminum can that is thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now!

* There is no limit to the amount of times an aluminum can can be recycled.

* Aluminum can manufacturers have been making cans lighter -- in 1972 each pound of aluminum produced 22 cans; today it yields 29 cans.

* We use over 80,000,000,000 aluminum pop cans every year.

* At one time, aluminum was more valuable than gold!

* A 60-watt light bulb can be run for over a day on the amount of energy saved by recycling 1 pound of steel. In one year in the United States, the recycling of steel saves enough energy to heat and light 18,000,000 homes!

* Every ton of recycled steel saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,000 of coal, and 40 pounds of limestone.


* To produce each week's Sunday newspapers, 500,000 trees must be cut down.

*Recycling a single run of the Sunday New York Times would save 75,000 trees.

* If all our newspaper was recycled, we could save about 250,000,000 trees each year!

* If every American recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, we would save about 25,000,000 trees a year.

* During World War II when raw materials were scarce, 33% of all paper was recycled. After the war, this number decreased sharply.

* If you had a 15-year-old tree and made it into paper grocery bags, you'd get about 700 of them. A supermarket could use all of them in under an hour! This means in one year, one supermarket goes through 60,500,000 paper bags! Imagine how many supermarkets there are in the U.S.!!!

* The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year!

* The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.

* When you smell a dump, what you're actually smelling is the paper in the dump!

* Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.

* Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year; about 680 pounds per person.

* The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Most is packaging and junk mail.

* In 1993, U.S. paper recovery saved more than 90,000,000 cubic yards of landfill space.

* In 1993, nearly 36,000,000 tons of paper were recoverd in the U.S.--twice as much in 1980.

* 27% of the newspapers produced in America are recycled.

* Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution!

* The 17 trees saved (above) can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide.

* The construction costs of a paper mill designed to use waste paper is 50 to 80% less than the cost of a mill using new pulp.


* Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away!

* Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year!

* Americans throw away 25,000,000 plastic beverage bottles every hour!

* Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as buring it in an incinerator.

* American throw away 25,000,000,000 styrofoam coffee cups every year


* Every month, we throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper. All of these jars are recyclable!

* The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.

* A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose -- and even longer if it's in the landfill.

* Mining and transporting raw materials for glass produces about 385 pounds of waste for every ton of glass that is made. If recycled glass is substituted for half of the raw materials, the waste is cut by more than 80%.


* Although 75% of our trash can be recycled, the EPA set a national goal of 25% for 1992.

* The first real recycling program was introduced in New York City in the 1890s. The city's first recycling plant was built in 1898.

* By 1924, 83% of American cities were separating some trash items to be reused.

* About one-third of an average dump is made up of packaging material!

* Every year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.

* New Jersey has the highest recycling rate of all the states--56%!

* The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world's people generate 40% of the world's waste.

* This chart shows the composition of an average garbage dump. Notice how much of it is recyclable!!

* The highest point in Ohio is "Mount Rumpke," which is actually a mountain of trash at the Rumpke sanitary landfill!

* The US population discards each year 16,000,000,000 diapers, 1,600,000,000 pens, 2,000,000,000 razor blades, 220,000,000 car tires, and enough aluminum to rebuild the US commercial air fleet four times over.

* Speaking of diapers, a cloth diaper washed at home costs 3¢ per use. A disposable diaper costs 22¢ per use. The difference can add up; a typical baby will use about 10,000 diapers!

* Between 5 and 15% of what we throw away contains hazardous substances.

* Out of ever $10 spent buying things, $1 (10%) goes for packaging that is thrown away. Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.

* On average, it costs $30 per ton to recycle trash, $50 to send it to the landfill, and $65 to $75 to incinerate it.

* Americans generate and throw away 9 times as much waste as does a person in Africa or Central America, but we also generate two to three times the amount of waste as people living in industrial countries with a comparable or better standard of living as us.


* More than 20,000,000 Hershey's Kisses are wrapped each day, using 133 square miles of tinfoil. All that foil is recyclable, but not many people realize it.

* Every week about 20 species of plants and animals become extinct!

* McDonald's saves 68,000,000 pounds of packaging per year just by pumping soft drink syrup directly from the delivery truck into tanks in the restaurant, instead of shipping the syrup in cardboard boxes!

* The largest environmental organization in the world is the National Wildlife Federation. It has 5,600,000 members!

* Rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per minute!

* One-third of the water used in most homes is flushed down the toilet.

* A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.

* You can walk 1 mile along an average highway in the United States and see about 1,457 pieces of litter.

* The Washington, DC-based Institute For Local Self-Reliance calculates that recycling creates 36 jobs per 10,000 tons of material recycled compared to 6 jobs for every 10,000 of tons brought to traditional disposal facilities.

* A typical family consumes 182 gallons of pop, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk, and 26 gallons of bottled water a year. That's a lot of containers -- make sure they're recycled!