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The Five R’s: Reuse, Recycle, Reduce, Rethink and Re-purpose.

Worldwide efforts are under way for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.  Recycling steel, aluminum and copper are a few examples of where the energy used to recycle these metals is minimal compared to the energy required to produce them. Cars, appliances and other products are continually being redesigned to allow for easy disassembly into component parts for recycling or reuse.

Other countries such as Japan and Germany are requiring that automobiles, office equipment and household appliances be designed to allow for easier dis-assembly and recycling. Japan is mandating that consumers bear the cost of disassembling items such as washing machines, TV’s and air conditioners. In May of 1998 Japanese recycling law forbids discarding appliances without first disassembling them at the consumers expense.

The Caterpillar Company is a leader in the re-manufacturing of its heavy industry sector. At one plant in Corinth Mississippi, Caterpillar recycles 17 truckloads of diesel engines per day. The engines are dissembled by hand without throwing away a simple bolt or screw. All these parts are then repaired and eventually reassembled into a new engine. The company’s re-manufacturing division adds one billion dollars to its bottom line in the process!

Recycling Facts

The U. S. opened the first recycling center in 1896. Since that time we have come a long way. However, we still have a long way to go to improve the transformation of waste into useable resources.

How Much Trash is produced in the US?

Municipal solid waste (MSW) consists of common household trash such as food scraps. packaging, yard waste and appliances. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) takes all of these things into account when compiling statistics for MSW. These figures do not include construction waste or hazardous materials.

As the trash in the U.S. continues to increase, EPA Statistic show that from 1980 until 2005 MSW increased by 60% representing 246 million tons of MSW, hat figure is 2 million tons smaller than in 2004.

Aluminum Recycling Facts

  • 50% of a new aluminum can comes from recycled aluminum. An aluminum can is recycled and back on the store shelf in 60 days. In 2008 aluminum cans had a scrap value of $600 million. Other sources of aluminum from items such as siding, gutters, car parts, etc. can and are recycled
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run the equivalent of a half a gallon of gasoline.
  • Beverage cans use more aluminum than any other product.
  • According to the EPA, less than 1% of the total U.S. waste stream is aluminum cans due to recycling.
  • Incredibly, in 500 years an aluminum can thrown away today can still be a can as there is no limit as to how many times they can be recycled
  • We use 80,000,000,000 aluminum soda cans every year
  • Aluminum was more valuable that gold at one time.


  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy needed to produce new aluminum from raw materials. Energy saved from recycling one ton of aluminum is equal to the amount of electricity the average home uses over 10 years. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours. (EPA, 2008)
  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one can out of new material. Energy savings in 1993 alone were enough to light a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years.
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
  • Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.
  • Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.
  • Americans throw out enough iron and steel to supply all the nation’s automakers on a continuous basis.
  • A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution and mining wastes by about 70%.
  • When you toss out one aluminum can you waste as much energy as if you’d filled the same can half-full of gasoline and poured it into the ground.


  • The steel industry’s annual recycling saves the equivalent energy to electrically power about 18 million households for a year. Every time a ton of steel is recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1000 pounds of coal and 40 pounds of limestone is preserved.
  • Every day Americans use enough steel and tin cans to make a steel pipe running from Los Angeles to New York… and back. If we only recycle one-tenth of the cans we now throw away, we’d save about 3.2 billion of them every year.
  • The average American throws out about 61 lbs. of tin cans every month.
  • About 70% of all metal used just once and is discarded. The remaining 30% is recycled. After 5 cycles, one-fourth of 1% of the metal remains in circulation.


  • Americans throw away enough glass bottles and jars every two weeks to fill the 1.350-foot towers of the former World Trade Center.
  • Most bottles and jars contain at least 25% recycled glass.
  • Glass never wears out — it can be recycled forever. We save over a ton of resources for every ton of glass recycled — 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar.
  • States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume.
  • If all the glass bottles and jars collected through recycling in the U.S. in 94 were laid end to end, they’d reach the moon and half way back to earth.

Paper Recycling Facts

  • Each of us uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year. (EPA, 2008)
  • More than 56 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. during 2007 was recovered for recycling — an all-time high. This impressive figure equals nearly 360 pounds of paper for each man, woman, and child in America. (Paper Industry Association Council, 2007)
  • More than 400 paper mills in the United States use at least some recovered materials in their manufacturing processes, and more than 200 of those mills use recovered fiber exclusively. (EPA, 2008)
    Savings: Energy, Water, etc.
  • De-inked paper fiber is the most efficient source of fiber for the manufacturing of new paper products; one ton of de-inked pulp saves over 7000 gallons of water, 390 gallons of oil, and reduces air emissions by 60 lbs compared to traditional virgin fiber processes. (Abitibi Consolidated, 2005)
  • Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 2 barrels of oil, and 4,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity — enough energy to power the average American home for five months. (EPA, 2008)
  • Recycling paper instead of making it from new material generates 74 percent less air pollution and uses 50 percent less water. (EPA, 2008)
  • Producing recycled paper requires about 60 percent of the energy used to make paper from virgin wood pulp. (EPA, 2008)

Junk Mail

  • If only 100,000 people stopped their junk, mail, we could save up to 150,000 trees annually. If a million people did this, we could save up to a million and a half trees.
  • The junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.
  • The average American still spends 8 full months of his/her life opening junk mail.
  • Uses of Recycled Paper
  • Just over 48% of office paper is recovered for recycling. This becomes raw material for paperboard, tissue, and printing and writing papers. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)
  • Over 73% of all newspapers are recovered for recycling. Almost a third goes back into making more newsprint. The remainder is used to make paperboard, tissue, and insulation, or exported. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)
  • Approximately 1.5 million tons of construction products are made each year from paper, including insulation, gypsum wallboard, roofing paper, flooring, padding and sound-absorbing materials. (American Forest and Paper Association, 2002)
  • Recycled paper can also be made into paper towels, notebook paper, envelopes, copy paper and other paper products, as well as boxes, hydro-mulch, molded packaging, compost, and even kitty litter. (EPA, 2008)
  • To produce each week’s Sunday newspapers, 500,000 trees must be cut down.
  • Recycling a single run of the Sunday New York Times would save 75,000 trees. If all our newspaper was recycled, we could save about 250,000,000 trees each year!
  • If every American recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, we would save about 25,000,000 trees a year.
  • If you had a 15-year-old tree and made it into paper grocery bags, you’d get about 700 of them. A supermarket could use all of them in under an hour! This means in one year, one supermarket goes through 60,500,000 paper bags! Imagine how many supermarkets there are in the U.S.!!!
  • The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year!
  • The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.
  • Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.
  • Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year; about 680 pounds per person.
  • The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Most is packaging and junk mail.
  • In 1993, U.S. paper recovery saved more than 90,000,000 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution!
  • The 17 trees saved (above) can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • The construction costs of a paper mill designed to use waste paper is 50 to 80% less than the cost of a mill using new pulp.

Plastic Recycling Facts

  • Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away!
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year!
  • Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as burning it in an incinerator.
  • Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam coffee cups every year.

Glass Recycling Facts

  • Every month, we throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper. All of these jars are recyclable!
  • The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.
  • A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose — and even longer if it’s in the landfill.
  • Mining and transporting raw materials for glass produces about 385 pounds of waste for every ton of glass that is made. If recycled glass is substituted for half of the raw materials, the waste is cut by more than 80%.

Solid Waste and Landfills

  • About one-third of an average dump is made up of packaging material!
  • Every year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.
  • The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste.
  • The highest point in Hamilton County, Ohio (near Cincinnati) is “Mount Rumpke.” It is actually a mountain of trash at the Rumpke sanitary landfill towering 1045 ft. above sea level.
  • The US population discards each year 16,000,000,000 diapers, 1,600,000,000 pens, 2,000,000,000 razor blades, 220,000,000 car tires, and enough aluminum to rebuild the US commercial air fleet four times over.
  • Out of every $10 spent buying things, $1 (10%) goes for packaging that is thrown
    away. Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.
  • On average, it costs $30 per ton to recycle trash, $50 to send it to the landfill, and $65 to $75 to incinerate it.


  • Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas.
  • Americans go through 25 billion plastic bottles every year.
  • 26 recycled PET bottles equals a polyester suit. 5 recycled PET bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.
  • In 1988 we used 2 billion pounds of HDPE just to make bottles for household products. That’s about the weight of 90,000 Honda Civics.
  • If every American household recycled just one out of every ten HDPE bottles they used, we’d keep 200 million pounds of the plastic out of landfills every year.


  • It is un-recyclable- you can’t make it into new Styrofoam. The industry wants you to assume it is- don’t BUY it!
  • Each year American throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, enough every year to circle the earth 436 times.

Miscellaneous Recycling Facts

  • An estimated 80,000,000 Hershey’s Kisses are wrapped each day, using enough aluminum foil to cover over 50 acres of space — that’s almost 40 football fields. All that foil is recyclable, but not many people realize it.
  • Rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per minute!
  • A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.
  • Motor oil never wears out, it just gets dirty. Oil can be recycled, re-refined and used again, reducing our reliance on imported oil.
  • On average, each one of us produces 4.4 pounds of solid waste each day. This adds up to almost a ton of trash per person, per year.
  • A typical family consumes 182 gallons of soda, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk, and 26 gallons of bottled water a year. That’s a lot of containers — make sure they’re recycled!

General Garbage

  • In 1865, an estimated 10,000 hogs roamed New York City, eating garbage. Now, one of every six U.S. trucks is a garbage truck.
  • In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his/her adult weight in garbage. If you add it up, this means that a 150-lb. adult will leave a legacy of 90,000 lbs of trash for his/her children.
  • The average baby generates a ton of garbage every year.
  • The landfill gas produced daily at Fresh Kills Landfill is enough fuel to heat 50,000 homes.


  • It takes half a barrel of crude oil to produce the rubber for just one truck tire.
  • Every two weeks, Americans wear almost 50 million pounds of rubber off their tires. That’s enough to make 3 1/4 million new tires from scratch.
  • Producting one pound of recycled rubber versus one pound of new rubber requires only 29% of the energy.

Food and Packaging

  • $1 out of every $11 Americans spend for food goes for packaging.
  • Americans dump the equivalent of more than 21 million shopping bags full of food into landfills every year.


  • One gallon of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of water.
  • Most cars on U.S. roads carry only one person. We have so much extra room in our 140 million cars that everyone in Western Europe could ride with us.
  • If today is a typical day on planet earth, humans will add fifteen million tons of carbon to the atmosphere, destroy 115 square mils of tropical rainforest, create seventy-two square miles of desert, eliminate between forty to one hundred species, erode seventy-one million tons of topsoil, add twenty-seven hundred tons of CFCs to the stratosphere, and increase their population by 263,000.
  • Almost four million computer diskettes are thrown away every day, which equals over on and a half billion disks per year or a stack of disks as tall as Sears Tower in Chicago every 21 seconds. It will take nearly 500 years for the disks to degrade.
  • The facts contained in this article have been gathered from many sources such as the National Recycling Coalition, the Environmental Protection Agency, and We made every effort to provide correct information, but do not guarantee that the facts presented here are exact. Please feel free to contact us with any corrections or updates.

Andrea from provided us with a number of useful links for the Holidays.

Calculate the Carbon Footprint of Your Holiday

Energy-Efficient Home for the Holidays,

Christmas Light Energy Calculators

Sustainable Ways to Gift Wrap

Recycled Holiday Cards

For even more information and additional recycling facts, please visit:
The National Recycling Coalition


Additional resources provided by Mrs. Carters 11th Grade Class