The Environment

Recycling requires far less energy, uses fewer natural resources, and keeps waste from piling up in landfills. (1)

The world’s forests are being destroyed at the rate of one acre per second. Every 16 minutes, a forest the size of New York’s Central Park is destroyed. Every day, a forest the size of Philadelphia (74,000 acres) is lost and every year, an area the size of Pennsylvania (27 million acres) is ruined. (2)

By using recycled materials instead of trees, metal ores, minerals, oil and other raw materials harvested from the earth, recycling-based manufacturing conserves the world’s scarce natural resources. This conservation reduces pressure to expand forests cutting and mining operations. (3)

Every bit of recycling makes a difference. For example, one year of recycling on just one college campus, Stanford University, saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron ore, coal, and limestone. (4)

Tree farms and reclaimed mines are not ecologically equivalent to natural forests and ecosystems. (4)

Recycling offers significant energy savings over manufacturing with virgin materials. (Manufacturing with recycled aluminum cans uses 95% less energy. (1)

In 1996, recycling resulted in an annual energy savings of at least 408 trillion Btus, or 0.5 percent of all energy use nationwide. This is equal to the amount of energy used in 4 million households annually. (5)

Recycling 35 percent of U.S. trash saves enough energy to fuel six million homes annually (660 trillion BTUs), generates $5.2 billion in raw materials each year, and reduces global warming emissions equivalent to taking 36 million cars off the road. –Office of the Federal Enviro. Executive, White House Task Force on Recycling, “Recycling for the Future,” June 1999 (6)

Why use a valuable material or product once, and then place it in your trash to be buried in a landfill or incinerated? Instead, divert that material for recycling, and capture the energy and resources already used to make that product. Since recycled materials have been refined and processed once, manufacturing the second time around is much cleaner and less energy-intensive than the first. (3)

Products made using recovered rather than virgin or raw materials use significantly less energy. Less energy used means less burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. When burned, these fuels release pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide, into the air. (3)

It is important to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. Recycling helps us do that by saving energy. (4)

Making goods from recycled materials generates far less water pollution than manufacturing from virgin materials. (1)

Many pollutants are released by the extraction and processing of raw materials. Some of these pollutants are known to be carcinogenic or toxic to humans, and some have effects, such as creating acid rain, that are damaging to natural habitats. In addition, for many new and high volume usage chemicals, the long-term effects are unknown. Extensive life-cycle analyses find overall emissions to all  environmental media to be lower when we use recovered rather than virgin materials. Recycling is a highly effective strategy for reducing all the categories of health risks and pollution resulting from virgin material extraction and processing. (5)

By decreasing the need to extract and process new raw materials from the earth, recycling can eliminate the pollution associated with the first two stages of a products development: material extraction and processing. Mineral extracting and processing pollute the air, land, and water with toxic materials, such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and sulfur dioxides. Recycling reduces, and in many cases eliminates, these pollutants. (3)

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. (4)

In the U.S., processing minerals contributes almost half of all reported toxic emissions from industry, sending 1.5 million tons of pollution into the air and water each year. Recycling can significantly reduce these emissions. (4)