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Why it's important

There is no away. Everything that you use ends up somewhere. We use and quickly discard a lot of materials that take a lot of energy to make. A huge piece of our energy-use pie is the materials we use. We have all heard how important it is to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but it's important for different reasons than you might think. While filling up landfills is an issue, the real reasons to worry about our stuff revolve around energy, water, toxins, and resource availability.

Approximately 10% of US oil consumption is used to make plastics
Check out the Where We Are section for some stats on the amount of trash we produce and the energy, water, and natural resources wasted by our stuff. These numbers can be reduced by consuming less and better materials, which you can learn more about in the How We Get There section, through reusing materials, and also through recycling. Recycling is a very important process because large amounts of water, resources, and energy can be conserved as a result of the recycling process. Below you can see why recycling is such an important part of reducing the energy usage of our stuff. You can also check out this website to learn more about the importance of recycling.
Glass can be recycled indefinitely, making it a very sustainable material if it is recycled and if the energy used to produce it comes from clean sources.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Recycling Metals

Figures from the British Metal Recycling Association show that energy savings from recycling a number of commonly used metals are substantial, and while these processes may release some harmful chemicals, they are less than what are released by mining the materials in the first place. These energy savings include transportation and sorting.
  • Aluminum - 95% energy savings
  • Copper -85%
  • Lead - 60%
  • Steel - 62-74%
  • Zinc - 60%

Recycling Plastics

Recycling plastic saves approximately 90% of the energy it takes to produce a pound of plastic from raw materials. Recycling plastics also reduce our oil usage; approximately 10% of US oil consumption is used to make plastics. Plastics do, however, have to separated into up to 20 different categories before being recycled.

Recycling Glass

Glass can be recycled indefinitely, making it a very sustainable material if used properly. Each ton of glass recycled prevents about 1.2 tons of raw material from being used and uses about 2/3 the energy that it takes to produce the glass from raw materials.

Recycling Paper

The US Department of Energy states that a ton of paper made from recycled fibers conserves about 7,000 gallons of water, up to 31 trees, 4,000kWh of electricity (about 4-5 months worth of electricity for an average home), and up to 60 pounds of non-CO2 air pollutants. Recycling paper uses about 60% less energy than it takes to produce paper from raw materials, not to mention the fact that keeping trees standing in forests and growing acts as a carbon sink.

Up next: Where we are
Green Living Tips - Recycling
Article on the energy savings from a variety of recycling processes
Click now to view
Green Living Tips - Recycling
Article on the energy savings from a variety of recycling processes
Click now to view
Green Living Tips - Recycling
Article on the energy savings from a variety of recycling processes
Click now to view
Green Living Tips - Recycling
Article on the energy savings from a variety of recycling processes
Click now to view
Green Living Tips - Recycling
Article on the energy savings from a variety of recycling processes
Click now to view
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