Article by Jonelle Kimbrough, Fort Bragg Environmental Management
Would you toss $270 million into a dumpster?
Of course, you wouldn’t … not on purpose, that is. But, every year, North Carolinians unwittingly discard $270 million of potential revenue, and we create 12 million tons of waste and deplete our natural resources in the process.
We don’t recycle – at least, not as much as we should.
Let’s talk trash. Every second, North Carolinians recycle 85 pounds of waste. But, we also create 752 pounds of refuse that is destined for a landfill. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as much as 75 percent of our waste stream is recyclable. Yet, only 35 percent of potentially recyclable waste is actually recycled.
We need to clean up our act so we can reap the environmental and fiscal benefits of recycling!
THE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF RECYCLING
Recycling carries numerous environmental benefits.
First, recycling reduces waste in the environment. By reducing waste, we can reduce the pollution and public health concerns associated with waste.
Recycling also saves natural resources such as land and water from unnecessary depletion. By recycling one ton of paper, we can save three cubic yards of landfill space, 17 trees, 463 gallons of oil and 7,000 gallons of water. Furthermore, recycling saves natural resources from contamination. Producing one ton of paper from recycled content creates 74 percent less air pollution and 35 percent less water pollution than producing one ton of paper from virgin content.
Recycling saves energy, too. Manufacturing products from recycled materials consumes less energy than manufacturing products from new materials. For example, producing paper from recycled fibers requires 60 percent of the energy required to produce paper from virgin pulp. Recycling an aluminum can saves 95 percent of the energy required to create the same can from new materials. Producing plastic from recycled materials consumes only two-thirds of the energy required to manufacture plastic from new materials. In practical terms, recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours. Recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
THE FISCAL BENEFITS OF RECYCLING
Recycling also carries numerous fiscal benefits.
First, recycling conserves the fiscal resources associated with the production and disposal of consumer goods. Because recycling conserves natural resources, recycling thus reduces the need for, demand for and scarcity of virgin materials and, in turn, reduces their costs. Since recycling conserves energy, recycling conserves the costs associated with energy as well. In terms of transportation and processing costs, disposing of a particular volume of waste in a landfill normally costs more than recycling the same volume of waste.
The recycling industry also benefits the economy by providing careers. There are 9,000 community recycling collection programs in the United States that employ one million individuals, generate a payroll of $37 million and gross over $236 million in annual revenues. Just in North Carolina, the recycling industry employs over 15,000 individuals, and careers in the recycling industry in the state have increased by 48 percent in the last decade.
In addition, the market for recycled content products has expanded to meet demands for more sustainable consumer options. Staples, for instance, offers more than 3,000 office supplies manufactured with recycled content. Advancements in technology have increased the demand for and the availability of recycled content products as well. Plastic bottles, for instance, are often more than meets the eye. Through a process known as upcycling, plastic bottles can be recycled into all sorts of materials – from pens to park benches. In fact, several familiar companies are incorporating recycled plastic bottles into their products. Sherwin-Williams received the EPA Green Chemistry award for its paint formulation that contains recycled plastic bottles. One Nike Pro TurboSpeed suit worn by American athletes in the last Olympic Games contained 13 recycled plastic bottles. And, Ford used 22 post-consumer recycled plastic bottles in the seat fabric of each 2012 Ford Focus Electric vehicle. As more of these innovative products reach retailers, the demand for post-consumer recycled plastics in the United States is expected to rise by 5.9 percent each year to 3.4 billion pounds by 2016.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You can do your part to benefit the environment and the economy by reducing, reusing and recycling at your home and at your office. Remember: as much as 75 percent of the waste stream is recyclable. Also, certain materials including plastic bottles, aluminum cans and computers are banned from landfills in North Carolina, so “know before you throw!”
For more information on recyclable materials, contact the Fort Bragg Recycling Center at 396.3372 or 432.6412, or contact your community recycling program. Or, find recycling resources online …
The Fort Bragg Recycling Center accepts all recyclables including plastics, aluminum cans, steel cans, cardboard, office paper, newspapers, magazines, personal electronics, glass and waste vegetable oil. The Fort Bragg Recycling Center is located on the corner of Butner Road and Reilly Road, across from the veterinary clinic and just prior to the entrance to Pope Army Airfield. Hours are Monday through Friday, 0730 until 1600.