Energy to Recycle Glass Bottles vs. Aluminum Cans vs. Plastic
by Milton Kazmeyer, Demand Media
Only 6.8 percent of plastics were recycled in 2008, but drink bottles are much more likely to berecycled.
Recycling does more than just keep renewable resources from the landfill --- it reduces your impact on the environment beyond your immediate sphere. According to the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency, much of the municipal waste stream is recyclable, but the average American throws out more than 1,130 pounds of garbage per year (see References 1). The agency reports that besidessaving landfill space, recycling glass, aluminum and plastic containers saves a considerable amount of energy compared to creating new products from raw materials (see References 4).
Most of theglass salvaged through recycling is made into new bottles and jars. Glass recycling involves crushing waste glass into small pellets known as cullet. Manufacturers create new containers from up to 70percent cullet, mixing it with raw materials to achieve specific color or quality standards. According to the Glass Packaging Institute, each 10 percent of cullet in the mix reduces the energyrequired to make new containers by 2 to 3 percent. Using less energy also helps manufacturing equipment like furnaces last longer. (See References 2)
Aluminum recycling is a very efficientprocess --- manufacturers can melt down and reuse aluminum from reclaimed containers repeatedly with little loss in quality. According to The Aluminum Association, creating an aluminum can out of recycledmaterials requires only 5 percent as much energy as creating a brand new can from bauxite ore. (See References 3) The EPA estimates that recycling one ton of aluminum saves the equivalent of almost 32barrels of oil, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process.
Plastic recycling programs exist throughout the United States; one of the most commonly...
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