25 Interesting Facts You May Not Know About Recycling

August 18, 2011 | Environmental Policy, Public Policy

The development of public policy is quite interesting. In many cases, public policy is developed based on facts, research and interesting ideas about what might enhance life for most people in an area. Some policies are made to help a large number of people and are implemented nationally, while others are implemented on a more local level in order to focus on enhancing the lives of the people in a state or city.

One of the issues that is handled mainly on a local level is recycling. Many cities or communities implement their own programs. If you are interested in recycling, there is a lot to learn about the habits of people and the differences recycling can make. Here are 25 interesting facts you might not know about recycling:

  1. The average American throws away three and a half pounds of trash every day, as well as consuming about 120 pounds of natural resources every day.
  2. It only takes about 60 days for an old can to be recycled into a new can. The whole process can be completed fairly quickly, and cans can be recycled over and over again. Aluminum can recycling is a good example of closed-loop recycling.
  3. If you recycle one aluminum can, you can save enough energy to power a TV for three hours. This can be a great way to help save energy. Consider: You can save a great deal of energy if you are involved in regular recycling.
  4. 500,000 trees must be cut down each week in order to produce the Sunday papers that are read. Recycling can provide a way for you to help reduce that number. Better yet, you can use electronic means to get your news.
  5. American households, on average, throw away about 13,000 pieces of paper every year. As you might guess, most of the discarded paper is junk mail.
  6. If a paper mill is constructed to use waste paper, it costs between 50% and 80% less than the cost would be for building a paper mill designed for new pulp.
  7. Every hour, Americans use about 2.5 million plastic bottles. That’s just Americans! And it’s every single hour. Sadly, a large number of these bottles are thrown away.
  8. As many as 1,000,000 sea creatures are killed every year, due to plastic bags and other plastic trash. The plastic is washed into the ocean, where it can cause death amongst various sea creatures.
  9. Many people burn plastic in an incinerator. However, you can save energy by recycling. It saves twice as much energy to recycle plastic instead of burn it. On top of that, recycling plastic takes about 70% less energy than creating it new.
  10. Raw materials are mined and transported in order to produce glass. This produces a lot of waste. If recycled glass were used instead of raw materials, 80% of the waste would be reduced.
  11. The cost of 10% of what Americans buy ($1 for every $10 spent) goes toward packaging. Interestingly enough, packaging represents 65% of the trash thrown out by the average American household.
  12. The recycling industry employs 1.1 million workers throughout the U.S. It is a $236 billion industry that helps the economy. Cheap materials are provided to companies that need them, and the jobs created help the economy as well.
  13. It is much more cost effective to recycle than to haul trash to the landfill, and even more expensive to incinerate trash. On average, it costs $30 per ton to recycle. However, it costs $50 a ton to send it to the landfill and as much as $75 a ton to incinerate it.
  14. 2,000,000 gallons of water can be contaminated by a single quart of motor oil. Motor oil merely gets dirty, so it can actually be used again if it is cleaned, refined and re-used. Not only can it be more environmentally friendly, but it can also help reduce dependence on foreign oil.
  15. You could build 185,000 steel frame homes with the steel recovered from recycled packaging. Recycling could help provide homes for more people.
  16. It is actually possible to recycle battery acid. It can be converted into materials that are used for glass manufacturing and even laundry detergent. It is very useful for a number of purposes.
  17. Like motor oil, glass never wears out. You can continue recycling it forever. There is little need to keep creating new glass, since you could recycle the old glass over and over.
  18. The number of landfills in the U.S. are decreasing. However, the size of them is increasing. Landfills get larger, even as they decrease in number. 
  19. The U.S. produced about 230 million scrap tires by the end of 2003. Now, though, there are markets for recycling these tires. 80.4% of scrap tires have markets, so it is not so necessary to send them to landfills.
  20. Lead from batteries can be reused in automotive batteries. The plastic from batteries can also be recycled into new casings. This prevents the batteries from filling landfills — and from causing hazardous chemicals to leach into the ecosystem.
  21. Most of the cans and jars that you use every day contain 25% recycled materials. This means that you are likely supporting recycling to some degree. You could increase the amount of recycled materials in packaging in general if you continue to recycle. 
  22. It is possible to recycle antifreeze. There are standards for recycled antifreeze, though. Before you throw out antifreeze, or before you buy new antifreeze, it might be worth it to consider the benefits of recycling it. You could support efforts to recycle.
  23. The first city in the U.S. to require recycling was Woodbury, in New Jersey. They introduced mandatory recycling in the 1970s. Since then, of course, many cities in the U.S. have policies of mandatory recycling, and others have optional recycling programs.
  24. You can make an adult sized fleece with 25 two-liter bottles. This is just one example of how our trash can be used for a number of purposes. Turning a two-liter bottle into clothing? That’s pretty cool. You can even use your own plastic bags to turn into your own clothing. It’s an interesting way to recycle on your own.
  25. Research is being done into recycling human fat. Liposuctioned fat might be used to make new tissues that could be used for various cosmetic and medical purposes. Human fat can also be recycled and used as a biofuel.

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