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The Truth About Recycling

Friday, December 23, 2016

Recycling: Sorting Out the Truth

Recycling is more than the right thing to do. For businesses, it’s an opportunity—a chance to reduce waste management costs, meet corporate sustainability goals and be seen as an environmental leader in the community. But there are some misconceptions about the recycling industry that can cause confusion for both businesses and consumers.

Truth: Recycling saves more than it costs.

Some people argue that having all those recycling trucks driving around takes more energy and creates more pollution than it’s worth. But these people aren’t seeing the whole picture. It takes considerably less energy to manufacture a product from recyclables than from virgin materials. Think about all that paper your business uses. Recycling one ton of paper saves enough energy to power an average household for up to six months and keeps 600 pounds of pollutants out of the air.2 How about that soda you had for lunch? Making aluminum cans from recycled cans requires 95% less energy than making cans from raw aluminum bauxite ore.2

Truth: We’re not out of landfill space.

Landfill capacity varies by your location,  but experts believe the national landfill space concerns have been exaggerated. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), national landfill capacity is “sufficient for our current disposal practices.”1 There are fewer landfills today than there were fifty years ago, but the landfills that exist currently can handle much more waste and are significantly more efficient. Even though there is adequate landfill space today, businesses are realizing the benefit of implementing waste diversion programs to reduce operating costs and conserve our landfill resources for the future.

Truth: Recycling prices fluctuate with commodity prices.

Markets for glass, aluminum, paper, steel and other recyclable materials fluctuate just like every other consumer product. As supply and demand changes, the price to buy or sell changes, too. But recycling is here to stay. Since the 1970s, the recycling movement has endured with traditional recyclables and has matured

Truth: Recycling really does make a difference.

Throwing a bottle in the recycling bin at work may not seem like a big deal, but multiply that by all of the employees at your company and it changes things. In addition to reducing the amount of waste that piles up in landfills, recycling helps prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and more. In 2014, the 89 million tons of municipal solid waste recycled and composted reduced annual carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by over 181 million metric tons. That’s equivalent to preventing emissions from over 38 million passenger cars annually.3

Understanding the recycling industry can help you make smart decisions both at home and at work. To discuss how to incorporate innovative waste diversion strategies into your company’s recycling plan, contact us.

1waste360.com. Regional Landfill Capacity Problems Do Not Equate to a National Shortage. August17, 2015.
2byui.edu. Recycling Myths. 
3epa.gov. Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures