by Anne Mohoff,
Sunset Waste Systems
Being somewhat new to the professional world of recycling, I have spent quite a bit of time learning as much as I could about our environment, the communities we serve and changes we can all make to promote a cleaner, healthier environment. I have spent hours discussing recycling from a business perspective — with my two managers and mentors — then more hours on the internet devouring any information I could find, along with attending city clean-up days, plant tours and visiting schools with our recycling coordinators.
The 15 recycling facts I found most interesting, even shocking:
- A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf as a new can in as little as 60 days. This is an example of closing the recycling loop at its best.
- Recycling one aluminum can will save enough energy to run a TV for three hours, or conserve the equivalent of one half a gallon of gasoline.
- An aluminum can that is thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now! Luckily, so many cans are recycled that they account for less than 1% of the total U.S. waste stream, according to EPA estimates.
- There is no limit to the number of times an aluminum can be recycled.
- To produce each week’s Sunday newspapers, 500,000 trees must be cut down but, if a single run of the Sunday New York Times was recycled, we could save about 250,000 trees each year.
- If every American recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, we would save about 25,000,000 trees per year!
- Americans use 85,000 tons of paper per year, which averages out to about 680 pounds per person.
- Each ton (2,000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less air pollution. If those 17 trees were saved, they could absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year.
- 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.
- Every month, Americans 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 or a compact fluorescent bulb for 20 hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.
- A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.
- On average, each one of us produces 4.4 pounds of solid waste each day. This adds up to almost a ton of trash per person, per year.
- 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 population generates 40% of the world’s waste!
I hope you find these facts as interesting as I do. By starting to recycle waste paper alone; a family of three could easily deter the 680 pounds of paper they each produce during the year from the landfill saving 17 trees, along with 380 gallons of oil, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water. These amazing changes can be accomplished by recycling paper alone; imagine the changes you can make if you were to start recycling aluminum cans, newspapers and plastic bottles. The outcome can be truly astonishing.
Please always remember to Recycle, Reduce, Reuse and Rethink. Promoting better recycling habits now will effect our environment for generations to come!