Just the other day a friend of mine was telling me how she was throwing out the plastic that was used for some food that she bought at the supermarket. Her daughter told her to recycle it instead and showed her mom the recycling triangle on the bottom. Kids are sponges when it comes to learning about things such as recycling. They monitor our behavior and love to remind us of all that they know. And they are right–Ii is easy to recycle. Besides giving new life to used materials, it saves us energy.
Although recycling does use some energy–for sorting, transporting, etc…– in general it saves far more than it uses. Even better, the amount of energy used in recycling is being minimized all the time. For instance, some waste management companies are looking for ways to make the vehicles used to pick up recycled materials more energy efficient. When companies make such investments, not only will they save energy and help the environment, but they also will be reduce their own costs.
Here are some energizing facts:
1. Recycling aluminum cans takes just 5 % of the energy needed to produce aluminum cans from raw materials. Any time that we can recycle, instead of having to rely on the processing new materials, we will save significant amounts of energy, not to mention that aluminum can be recycled indefinitely.
2. Glass is another item that takes less energy to recycle than to produce. Glass can be recycled over and over again and is easily made into new glass jars and bottles or into other glass products. Recycled glass takes about 40% less energy to make into another glass product than making it from scratch. The recycled glass melts at a lower temperature than the raw materials used to make glass (sand, soda ash, and limestone).
3. Recycling paper uses about 65% less energy than cutting down new trees and using wood pulp. Though some may argue that a recycling mill may consume more fossil fuels than a paper mill, recycled paper requires less bleaches and chemicals. Of course, when we reuse paper by printing on the back of discarded paper or reduce the use of paper by not printing out documents that we can work with electronically, we are doing even more to protect the trees.
When industries have recycled materials at their disposal, it is easier for them to save energy since they do not need to mine virgin resources. This translates to fewer greenhouse gas emissions while preserving our precious natural resources. California’s Department of Conservation had a great way of looking at how recycling saves energy. “Energy drinks are all the rage, and in recent years beverages that invigorate consumers have flooded the marketplace. What many people might not realize is that as the summer’s heat intensifies and people reach for the air-conditioning switch, the same bottles and cans that provide them with energy beverages could actually save the kind of energy needed to power their homes, air conditioners and televisions….[In 2004] the 12 billion bottles and cans recycled by Californians saved the equivalent of enough energy to power up to 522,000 homes, according to DOC calculations.”
Though some may argue that recycling takes more energy than using virgin materials, this is clearly not the case. Recycling is a great way for each of us to save energy and help the Earth, as well as being a simple thing to do.