Did you know that, in this country, only around 35% of households, and not even 10% of businesses recycle? Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that, over the past 15 years, billions of dollars have been invested in awareness campaigns, symposiums, competitions and sorting technologies, yet the number of people and businesses that recycle is not rising. Clearly, people need to understand more about what they need to do when they get to the bin, which is one of the reasons why the standardized labels have been re-introduced. If it is possible to increase recycling levels in this country to 75%, which would be the equivalent of taking some 50 million vehicles off the road. Not just that, it would also lead to an extra 1.5 million jobs. Recycling, therefore, is not just an opportunity to save the planet, it is also an opportunity to save the economy as well. Let's take a look at some of the statistics around recycling of different materials in this country.
If just five PET (plastic) bottles are recycled, they will have provided enough fiber fill for an entire ski jacket, or for a square foot of carpet. Every hour, some 2.5 PET bottles are thrown away in this country. If a ton of plastic bottles is recycled, the energy that is saved is the same as the amount of energy used yearly by a two-person household.
Every quarter, we throw away so much aluminum that we could rebuild the entire commercial air fleet of this country. During the lifetime of the average individual, each person could recycle around 25,000 cans. A single recycled can save so much energy that a television could be powered for three full hours. Recycling a can requires 95% less water and energy than creating one from scratch, using virgin materials
Every year, office workers throw away so much paper that a wall could be built with it from New York to Seattle. The wall would be 12 feet high and this could be rebuilt each year. If new paper is created from recycled paper, it can cause air pollution to drop by 74%. If a three foot stack of newspaper is recycled, a tree is saved. Lastly, only 37% of fiber that we use in this country to create new paper products is made from recycled materials. This must be increased.
It possible to recycle glass infinitely, re-manufacturing it forever. It will never wear out. When glass is made using recycled products, the contribution the industry makes to water pollution drops by 50%. If you were able to recycle a single glass jar, the amount of electricity that is saved is the equivalent of an 11 watt CFL light bulb burning for 20 hours. Every year, around 28 billion glass jars and bottles find their way to landfill sites. This means that, if transported, they could fill two Empire State Buildings to the top every three weeks.
If cardboard is recycled, 75% less energy is needed than if new cardboard was created from virgin materials. Recycling just one ton of cardboard means that 46 gallons of oil are saved. Corrugated boxes are used in the shipment of over 90% of all the products in this country. Cardboard is doing better in recycling, with some 80% of grocers and retailers recycling it.
Most people simply throw food waste away, but this could be used to create compost. Farmers could purchase this, or it could be used as feed on animal farms, so long as they meet the local, state and federal regulations in terms of food scrap usage. Worryingly, we waste around 50% of our food, which is the equivalent of 3,000 pounds per second. Around 12% of all solid municipal waste that this country generates are food scraps. Luckily, a lot of businesses and schools now try to compost food waste, often on site.
Paper that is used for food can often also be turned into compost and is particularly nutrient rich, meaning it is perfect for farmers. Since we waste around half of all our food, taking steps to do this is a very good idea. It is possible to compost paper used with food together with food scarps, killing two birds with one stone without having to worry about separating waste.
It was determined in 2007 that there were some 1.8 million tons of electronic waste found in landfill sites. Nine years earlier, it was estimated that around 20 million computers were classed as obsolete just one year after purchase. In 2007, this had increased to 40 million. Around 2% of our waste stream is made up of electronic waste, but mandatory collection and recycling is now imposed in many states.