I recently got asked does recycling save energy? After researching the subject I came to the conclusion that recycling can substantial reduce the amount of energy we use amongst other benefits.
Why does recycling save energy?
Extracting and Refining Natural resources like Iron ore, Bauxite etc is labour intensive and requires lots of energy in the form of extracting, transporting and refining. Through the use of recycled material, many of the processes can be eliminated and gives a jump start in the production of the same or similar products.
Aluminium is a good example, the extraction of aluminium from bauxite has huge energy requirements. Aluminium can’s don’t have to go through the same process.
How much energy can be saved through recycling?
How much energy can be saved through recycling depends on the material being recycled, and how often it can be recycled. Certain materials like aluminium, glass and iron can be recycled over and over again. Plastics normally have been downgraded to lower quality plastic products as they degraded every time they got recycled, but technical improvements now enables manufacturers to create new high quality plastic products.
Recycling aluminium is the best example of saving energy. With the amount of energy used to make one aluminium can from scratch (starting with the mining of bauxite) 20 recycled aluminum can’s can be produced. So next time when you toss that aluminium can think twice and recycle.
Recycling glass does save substantial amounts of energy. If you want to find out more use the calculator found on the website of The Glass Recycling Company.
If you recycle 5 glass containers a week, you can power for example a computer for over 3 days. Now imagine this saving if everyone recycles there glass containers/bottles.
More energy can be saved by reusing bottles through a deposit system. Initially they will be more expensive to produce (they tend to be thicker and heavier so they will require more glass and higher transport cost, but in the long run they should save energy.
Creating new paper from recycled paper can save up to 60% percent of energy. Although through contamination (ink etc) it is difficult or impossible to make high quality bright white paper. Often recycles paper is downgraded to carton or newspapers.
Other benefits of recycling.
Besides the saving of energy, recycling has other benefits as well. We need less natural resources, produce less pollution and the recycled product will be cheaper.