Conservation Corner – February 2015

Recycling basics

Pauline Lee

The population in the U.S. is just 5 percent of the entire world’s population, yet we generate 40 percent of the world’s waste. This amounts to 1,690 pounds of trash per person per year. When solid waste is put into landfills, labor and energy are required to dispose of the trash and the decomposing trash can pollute our air, water and ground. Fortunately, recycling our trash can produce economic benefits and reduce pollution to our environment. For Chandler the cost per ton to dispose of trash is $40; while revenue earned per ton of recyclables is $27.85. So the cost savings for every ton of recyclables not taken to the landfill is $67.85. Recycling creates four jobs for every one job created in the waste management and disposal industries. Thousands of U.S. companies have saved millions of dollars through their voluntary recycling programs.

How does recycling benefit the environment? 1. Recycling helps us to save energy and water in manufacturing. It takes 95 percent less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to make it from raw materials. Making recycled steel saves 60 percent, recycled newspaper 40 percent, recycled plastics 70 percent and recycled glass 40 percent. 2. Recycling benefits the air and water by creating a net reduction in ten major categories of air pollutants and eight major categories of water pollutants when we manufacture with recycled materials rather than virgin materials. 3. Recycling conserves natural resources. For example, each ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy and 7000 gallons of water. This represents savings of 64 percent energy, 58 percent water and 60 pounds less of air pollution! Furthermore, the 17 trees saved can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. But the same ton of paper would have created 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide in a garbage incinerator.

For recycling to be successful our discards have to be collected and then distributed to organization(s) that will accept the material. Sun Lakes Disposal (cardboard, paper, plastics, glass, aluminum and metals) and Sheriff’s Posse (recyclables plus rehab equipment) are an excellent starting point. United Fibers in Chandler (phone 480-726-0001) pays $.4/lb for all clean outer clothing and paired shoes to make house insulation. Styrofoam packing material including block and peanuts may be accepted by local companies, such as UPS stores and Earth Friendly Block. Many nonprofits such as Treasures4Teachers (phone 480-921-4102), Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Arizona. and Vietnam Veterans of America will also be happy to reuse your donations of recyclables and give you a tax deduction for the value of your donation. Recycling and composting diverted 34 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 1990 and in 2000 this amount doubled to 70 million tons. Recycle and minimize landfill! It will benefit our economy and help to conserve our natural resources and environment.