By Dan Lee | Posted: Saturday, September 5, 2015 11:00 pm
Why recycle? The answer to this question might seem obvious to dedicated environmentalists. To others, it might not be as obvious. Whatever the case, rather than just assume that a particular course of action is the right thing to do, it behooves supporters of any course of action to provide plausible reasons as to why this is the way to go. Consider the following:
— Recycling aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from bauxite ore; a ton of recycled aluminum saves 40 barrels of oil and 20 cubic yards of landfill space. Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to watch television for three hours.
— One ton of recycled newsprint saves 71 gallons of oil, 7,000 gallons of water and 4.6 cubic yards of landfill space. Recycling paper generates 95 percent less air pollution than conventional methods of making paper.
— Recycling one ton of plastic saves 16.3 barrels of oil and 30 cubic yards of landfill space. The production of plastic accounts for 4 percent of energy consumption in the United States.
— Recycling glass uses 50 percent less energy, and generates 20 percent less air pollution and 50 percent less water pollution than conventional methods of making glass. (In the United States today, over 30 percent of the raw material used in glass production comes from recycled glass.)
— One ton of recycled steel saves 1.8 barrels of oil and 4 cubic yards of landfill space. A 60-watt light bulb can be run for more than a day on the amount of energy saved by recycling one pound of steel.
This is not just of significance for us. It is of even greater significance for our children and grandchildren. Every barrel of oil saved by recycling is a barrel that is potentially available for future generations. The same is true of bauxite ore and a host of other raw materials.
All of this is reason enough to recycle. There is, however, more to the story. In many cases, recycling is good for the bottom line. It is not just because, as the examples noted above illustrate, recycling uses less energy than, say, making aluminum from bauxite ore, or because recycling reduces landfill costs — all of which can be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices. Recycling can be good for the bottom line in other ways as well.
Take, for example, the experience of the DuPont’s buildings division, which manufactures Corian and Zodiaq quartz solid surfaces (widely used for counter types) and Tyvek weatherization systems. The company discovered that scraps of Corian could be crushed and made into a gravel that could be sold for landscaping. They also discovered that leftover pieces of Tyvek cold be shredded and made into new Tyvek with no decline in the quality of the product.
In an interview for the Gunther Report, Dave Walter, the DuPont executive who spearheaded the zero waste effort, noted that cafeteria waste was a “tough one” at first, but then they discovered that it could be turned into worm bedding and sold to bait stores, fishermen and gardeners.
Waste that cannot be made into anything else is burned as a fuel to produce energy. As a result of this campaign, the buildings division went from sending 81 million pounds of waste to landfills in 2008 to zero in 2012. The most pleasant surprise, however, was that the company now generates revenue from the recycled products that it sells. This is in addition to the money it saves by avoiding landfill costs.
Recycling also presents new economic opportunities for entrepreneurs who recognize the significance of potential markets for products that are made from recycled materials. Take, for example, Perfect Rubber Mulch, a family-owned company based in Chicago whose motto is “Contributing to a Greener Environment One Tire at a Time.” As their name and motto suggest, they recycle old tires to make new products for which there is consumer demand. These include rubber paver tiles for horse paddock areas and for landscaping and shredded rubber for horse arenas and for playgrounds.
With all of this going for recycling, how can we not recycle?