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How Much Energy Does Recycling Save?

How Much Energy Does Recycling Save?

It’s a concern that even the most dedicated “tree-hugger” eventually raises: does recycling used products into new ones require more energy than it takes to make the same goods from raw materials?

It's a logical question. After all, used materials certainly have to be transported, broken down and recreated, which requires energy. After exhaustive research by agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as independent researchers, the encouraging answer is that recycling not only reduces waste and landfill space but also saves significant amounts of energy.  

How Household Products Stack Up

For the average consumer, recyclable goods fall into a handful of simple categories. In all cases, families can feel good about both recycling used goods and buying recycled products.

  • Paper. Saving trees from being cut down is certainly a worthy goal in itself. Because paper breaks down so easily, the energy savings is also high. Turning existing paper into pulp and re-processing takes 60 percent less energy than manufacturing new paper.
  • Cans. Recycling the aluminum for canned food and drinks is another area which massively reduces energy and resources. Melting and reforming the cans takes an astonishing 95 percent less energy than what goes into making them new. They also have an impressively short turnaround time, which helps explain why about half of the cans you currently buy are made from recycled materials.
  • Plastics. This broad range of products still has a ways to go regarding across-the-board efficiency, given that plastic is a petroleum product and breaks down in different ways, depending on the grading. Reusing plastic bottles to make new materials, however, takes 76 percent less energy than is used to make those products from brand-new materials. Research is ongoing to make plastic even more earth-friendly.
  • Glass. Recycled glass products require 20 percent less energy than making new glass from sand. Even better, glass can almost continually be melted down and turned into new glass products. This lack of degradation makes its resource conservation benefits even better than its energy savings.

Recycling the aluminum for canned food and drinks is another area which massively reduces energy and resources. Melting and reforming the cans takes an astonishing 95 percent less energy than what goes into making them new.

What You Can Do

Obviously, the goal to recycle should be at the top of your list when it comes to conservation, including energy. Following the regulations at your local recycling center ensures your discarded goods will be re-used efficiently.

Also, make it a priority to buy products that are made from recycled materials, whether it’s opting for cans over plastic packaging, or buying greeting cards made with recycled paper.

Want to learn more ways about how to recycle to reduce energy consumption while also cutting pollution and waste? Contact us at Central Kentucky Fiber Resources by phone or through our online form. Our blog is also full of useful information to help you make prioritizing energy conservation a straightforward process.