Energy advice: Why should we recycle? What’s the point? What does it save?
On average the citizens of major cities worldwide produce around 2kg’s of waste per day; this excludes sewerage. As a country we produce around 108 million tons of waste of which 90% goes to landfills. Our landfills are rapidly filling up and there are not many suitable pieces of land left. Putting products that can be reused or recycled in landfills borders on criminal.
By Reducing consumption, Reusing and Recycling we save, among other resources, water, energy, crude oil, mining and the space taken up by landfills. Over a period of time products in landfills decompose, deteriorate and start leaching their constituent chemicals into the earth. This can contaminate ground water (a precious resource for the future), coastlines and the soil. Recycling creates more jobs and business opportunities than just simply dumping into landfills.
Recycling metals: this is probably the most effective material to recycle when you take in to account the damage caused by mining, transporting and processing these products.
These energy saving figures take into account the sorting and transportation of recycled materials:
Aluminium – 95%
Copper – 85%
Lead – 60%
Steel – 62 – 74%
Zinc – 60%
Aside from the energy savings, the more metals that can be recycled, the less (or slower) destruction of the environment from mining. While the recycling process may produce toxic materials; mining certainly does – and in far greater volumes.
Recycling glass: Research indicates that for every ton of recycled glass, 1.2 tons of raw materials are not required and after taking into account transport and processing needed to recycle glass, nearly 700 pounds of carbon dioxide is saved per ton of glass melted. Recycled glass uses only two-
Recycled glass can be turned into fiberglass and as a component of bricks; requiring less energy to create the bricks and as the product is lighter, less energy is used in transport. Glass can be recycled indefinitely. Reusing glass through deposit programs makes a lot of sense.
Recycling plastics: Consumer products may contain as many as 20 different types of plastics, however there are 7 major ones; the biggest challenge is sorting it all. Plastics are often labelled with a number in a triangular graphic; this indicates to recyclers what it is made of and how to recycle or reuse it. According to research in the USA recycling plastics uses only roughly 10 percent of the energy that it takes to make plastic from virgin materials.
The savings aren’t just in energy – plastics are mostly made from crude oil. Nearly 10 percent of oil consumption is used to make plastics; the Sasol plastics plant in Sasolburg is one of the top polluters on earth. Recycling plastics also means saving oil – through the production process and base materials.
Recycling paper not only saves energy but also saves trees, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere. Producing a recycled paper product requires only 60 percent of the energy required to create one from fresh wood pulp, recycling a ton of paper can save 20 trees. Recycling paper also requires about half the water normally used in processing paper from virgin wood; around 26 000litres per ton of paper and saves around 4Mega Watt hours of electricity or enough power for 800 homes for 1 hour.
Recycling electronic goods or e-
Recycling tyres: There are estimated to be around 80million scrap tyres stockpiled; with around 11 million added every year. Only 19% of tyres were recycled last year; up from 4% the previous year. Tyres make excellent retaining walls, garden “pots”, erosion control barriers and can be used in walling. One of the uses for scrap tyres is pyrolysis, where the tyres are burnt at very high temperatures, in the absence of oxygen, generating an indirect source of heat for use as a fuel, in kilns for example. Because of the nature of the process, this generates almost no emissions or waste.
Recycling Oil: please do not put old oil down the drain; all fuel stations have collection points. The Rose foundation estimates that 1 litre of used oil can contaminate 1 million litres of water; an average car has 5 litres of oil. An Olympic pool has roughly 2.5 million litres of water; therefore the oil from 1 car can pollute the same water as 2 Olympic swimming pools or the same water that 500 households could use in 1 month.
The recycling trap
The recycling trap is a trap that is easy to get caught by – because an item can be recycled, does not mean that extra consumption is no longer a bad thing. Recycling is the last of the 3R’s i.e. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Consumption is where we can make the most difference. It means that less needs to be produced in the first place. Reusing gives old products new life with little or no energy being used for repurposing, whereas recycling still uses energy.
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