The Eco Echo Newsletter

Aluminum

*Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy needed to produce new aluminum from raw materials. Energy saved from recycling one ton of aluminum is equal to the amount of electricity the average home uses over 10 years. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)
*Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours. (EPA, 2008)
*Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one can out of new material. Energy savings in 1993 alone were enough to light a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years.
*Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
*Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.
* Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.
*Americans throw out enough iron and steel to supply all the nation’s automakers on a continuous basis.
*More than 50% of a new aluminum can is made from recycled aluminum.
*The 36 billion aluminum cans landfilled last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million. (Some day we'll be mining our landfills for the resources we've buried.)
Styrofoam
*It is un-recyclable - you can't make it into new Styrofoam (although the industry wants you to assume it is).
*Each year American throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups: enough every year to circle the earth 436 times.

General Garbage

*In 1865, an estimated 10,000 hogs roamed New York City, eating garbage. Now, one of every six U.S. trucks is a garbage truck.
* In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his/her adult weight in garbage. If you add it up, this means that a 150-lb. adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs of trash for his/her children.

Plastic Recycling Facts
• In 2006, Americans drank about 167 bottles of water each but only recycled an average of 23 percent. That leaves 38 billion water bottles in landfills.
• Bottled water costs between $1 and $4 per gallon, and 90 percent of the cost is in the bottle, lid and label.
• According to the Beverage Marketing Corp, the average American consumed 1.6 gallons of bottled water in 1976. In 2006 that number jumped to 28.3 gallons.
• It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture a year’s supply of bottled water. That’s enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars.
• Eight out of 10 plastic water bottles become landfill waste.
• In 2007 we spent $16 billion on bottled water. That’s more than we spent on iPods or movie tickets.
• Plastic bottles can take up to 1000 years before they begin to decompose once buried.
• If everyone in NYC gave up water bottles for one week, they would save 24 million bottles from being landfilled. One month on the same plan would save 112 million bottles, and one year would save 1.328 billion bottles from going into the landfill.
Plastic Bags – Just say “NO!”
Most American households have an exponentially growing number of plastic grocery bags stuffed in various nooks throughout their kitchens. We use plastic bags almost daily, yet only a small percentage of them are recycled. Many times, curbside programs will not accept plastic bags, based on their lack of weight, making them easily stuck inside machinery when recycled. Many recent plastic bag bans have hit areas of the U.S., bringing this issue to the forefront of the environmental debate.
Recycling rates for plastic bags are extremely low. Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags end up getting recycled.

In addition, the economics of recycling plastic bags are not appealing. From the process of sorting, to the contamination of inks and the overall low quality of the plastic used in plastics bags, recyclers would much rather focus on recycling the vast quantities of more viable materials such as soda and milk bottles that can be recycled far more efficiently. If the economics don't work, recycling efforts don't work.

For example, it costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32 (Jared Blumenfeld, director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment as reported by Christian Science Monitor).

Furthermore many bags collected for recycling never get recycled. A growing trend is to ship them to Third world countries like India and China which are rapidly becoming the dumping grounds for the Western world's glut of recyclables. Rather than being recycled they are cheaply incinerated under more lax environmental laws.

Even if recycling rates of plastic bags increase dramatically, it doesn't solve other significant problems, such as the use of non-renewable resources and toxic chemicals in their original production, or the billions of bags that wind up in our environment each year that eventually breakdown into tiny toxic bits.

What to do? Choose reusable cloth bags!

 

 

 

 

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