According to statistics, it is believed that about 98% of single-usage plastic products are made from fossil fuels. If this alarming rate continues, we will be running out of non-renewable resources. To curb this problem, recycling has been stressed majorly.
Recycling is the process of collecting, processing, and converting materials into new products. These materials are existing products that were going to be thrown away, for example, plastic bottles, cardboard, milk cartons, papers, etc.
Everyone knows that recycling helps save landfill spaces to a huge extent and conserves non-renewable natural resources. However, were you aware that it also saves a huge amount of energy?
Let us understand How Does Recycling Save Energy?
How Recycling Aluminum Saves Energy?
Aluminum is one of the most widely used materials around the world. Around 100 billion aluminum cans are sold in the United States annually. It is also one of the most efficient recyclable materials. Aluminum can be constantly reused, and it requires really less processing power to recycle.
The crushed aluminum stock can simply be melted down, which can be added to freshly extracted aluminum. This process will not degrade the quality of the end product. The energy required to produce about 20 recycled cans is the same as making one can from the fresh bauxite ore, making recycling aluminum efficient.
The time taken for the aluminum to go from the recycling bin at your home to the shelves in the market is just 60 days! Significant energy savings can be achieved as the aluminum can be recycled indefinitely without degrading. There is no need to bring any new material into the production cycle.
How Recycling Plastic Saves Energy?
Plastics constitute a major component of consumer products. There are seven types of plastics, and each of them has different polymers and varied purposes. Plastic production accounts for 4% of the country’s annual energy consumption. The pressure on energy consumption can be relieved by recycling the plastics, down-cycling them, or repurposing them.
Unlike aluminum, the quality of plastic degrades each time it is down-cycled. At some point, the plastic water bottle will end up in the trash can, but until then, it can be used to make low-grade materials, including lumber, fleece, or carpet fiber. These days, manufacturers can re-create plastic products of high quality while taking less energy to produce them.
How Recycling Paper Saves Energy?
One of the major advantages of recycling paper is that it saves thousands of trees, which reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Recycling a ton of paper saves up to 17 trees. Producing recycled paper requires only 60 percent of the total energy and half the water normally required to produce paper from fresh pulp.
Paper is one of the most recycled materials in the United States. The one problem manufacturers face is the leftover ink residue, which makes it difficult to achieve bright white paper. However, research is being conducted on producing biodegradable inks and even erasable paper, which can help improve recycling efficiency.
How Recycling Glass Saves Energy?
Recycling glass isn’t as efficient as compared to others because of the processing required to turn the glass into a raw and usable state. However, it is highly recommended to recycle and reuse it as it will end up in landfills if you discard it.
It takes around a million years for glass to break down in landfills. Thus, you should consider recycling and reusing glass as often as possible. It is extremely easy to reuse glass jars and bottles at home instead of buying new ones.
How Much Energy Does Recycling Save?
Extracting raw materials and processing them into usable products requires a lot of energy. However, recycling and reusing existing products save considerable energy because less processing takes place.
But, the breakdown of how much energy is exactly saved depends on the material that is being recycled. Let’s take some examples.
To recycle glass, you need to heat the remelted products. This is the most energy required during recycling. But the energy saving is comparatively lesser in glass compared to other products; only about 10 to 15%.
The process of producing aluminum from its ores requires heavy electricity and heat. When recycling is done, you cut down tons of electricity since the process now only consists of cleaning and remelting. Hence, you save about 94% of the total energy used!
Recycling paper saves almost 4,100 kilowatt-hours of energy. Moreover, you save several natural resources because one ton of paper is made from seventeen 30-feet tall trees, 7,000 water gallons, and 463 gallons of oil.
Plastic recycling saves around 66% of energy. In fact, just a ton of plastic can save up to 5,774 Kilowatt-hours of energy, 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of gasoline, 30.4 cubic yards of landfill space, and 16 barrels of oil.
How Efficient is Recycling?
In terms of energy saving, as discussed above, different items save differently. For instance, plastic recycling conserves 66%, while recycled aluminum saves up to 96% of energy. When we talk about the efficacy of recycling, you will realize that it significantly saves tons of energy compared to disposing products in landfills and manufacturing new ones.
Moreover, what makes recycling the most efficient method is the various environmental benefits it provides. Biodegradable waste is converted into compost, increasing soil fertility and eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers. Mixed waste is transformed into biogas energy used for burning power plants. The smoke from the plants is processed to contain harmful greenhouse gas. When reusable metals are attracted from ashes, they can be further used for road construction.
The entire process proves efficient and reflects how effective recycling can be!
With recycling, there’s a reduction in the demand to use energy resources. On a large scale, more and more companies should start thinking of recycling materials and saving energy. While simultaneously, reducing, recycling, and reusing should be in our personal life. This way, everyone can continue contributing to a greener and more sustainable planet!
Compactor Management Company (former Northern California Compactors, Inc.) offers installation and support services for waste recycling equipment such as waste compactors, balers, shredders & conveyor systems. Established in 1981, it offers waste management solutions across the United States.