Why Recycle?

Is recycling worth the while? Should I even bother?

The answers are a resounding “Yes!” Although naysayers will sometimes argue that the added energy consumption of recycling transportation and processing machines counter the saving of extraction and virgin processing energy, there is really no argument at all.

The Opportunity

Paper mills use 40% less energy to make paper from recycled paper than they do making paper from virgin timber. In fact, you can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water just from recycling one ton of paper.

Approximately 75% of the millions of canned drinks sold each day come in aluminum cans. The production of aluminum requires truckloads of energy. Mining causes severe environmental damage and the smelting process uses huge amounts of energy. Additionally, worldwide, the aluminum industry uses as much electric power as the entire African continent. When it comes to production, making a pound of aluminum from raw materials emits about 12 pounds of CO2, even more than making a pound of plastic. Making recycled aluminum requires only about 5% of that energy.

The Reality

The downside is that we throw away instead of recycle more than fifty billion aluminum cans per year. If those cans had been recycled, that would save sixteen million barrels of crude oil-or enough energy to provide electricity for 2.7 million homes. What kind of savings could we expect from recycling other things around the office?

Your Business

So let’s say your business has 100 employees in a 20,000 square foot office with computers, incandescent lighting, restrooms, and a staff lounge with fridge, coffeemaker, microwave and a sink with a faucet that leaks one drop per second:

Based on some widely available statistics, every year your business might be using:

  • 1 million sheets of copy paper, or about 10,000 lbs (5 tons)
  • 38,000 lbs (19 tons) additional paper from mail/various sources
  • 198,000 gallons of water (this figure would likely be MUCH higher for a production facility)
  • 440,000 KwH of electricity
  • 15,600 aluminum cans per year
  • 5,000 glass bottles per year
  • .5 ton of plastic per year

Your Business, But Greener

If you manage to recycle just 60% of paper, replace your lighting with Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs), adopt efficient computer power protocols, set up recycling bins for glass, aluminum and plastic items workers bring from home, and use recycled paper products where possible, your business could be responsible for saving directly:

  • 310,000 kWh of Electricity
  • Over 500,000 gallons fo water
  • Over 40,000 gallons of oil
  • Over 250 cubic yards of landfill space

Another way to look at it: that's the equivalent of saving/planting over 100 acres of trees, eliminating 440,000 lbs of CO2, or taking nearly 30 cars off the road.

Applying What You Learned

So through some pretty simple efforts, your business could not only save some cash, but actually be responsible for saving the equivalent of 70% of your electricity usage, and taking a huge chunk out of your carbon footprint. Now it's just up to the rest of the businesses to make the change!

Image courtesy of Bas Emmen from Unsplash.com