Conserve Resources

Recycling conserves natural resources, such as timber, water and mineral ores. National statistics point to the environmental success of recovery levels for some materials: paper and paperboard 48%; glass 19%; steel 36%; aluminum 21%. (We have not been as successful at recovering others, for example plastics at 5% and textiles at 14%).

Recovered paper currently accounts for 37% of the paper industry's fiber needs. Without recycling, this material would come from trees; every ton of newspaper is the equivalent of 12 trees, and every ton of office paper is the equivalent of 24 trees. When one ton of steel is recycled, 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved. Recycling a ton of paper saves 7,000 gallons of water.

Tree farms and reclaimed mines are not ecologically equivalent to natural forests and ecosystems. Recycling prevents natural habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, and soil erosion associated with logging and mining.

Recycling Can Be Profitable

Unrecycled commodities could save and generate millions, even billions, of dollars if they were recycled

Material

Nat'l recycling Unrecycled rate pounds

Value of unrecycled pounds

Value of unrecycled pounds

Aluminum Cans

1,446,843,750

$954,916,875

Fiber

99,699,203,185

$3,813,494,522

Glass Bottles

75,730,909,091

$18,478,342

HDPE Plastic Bottles

2,508,980,000

$577,065,400

PET Plastic Bottles

3,449,816,326

$931,450,408

Steel Cans

801,661,129

$43,089,286

TOTAL

183,637,413,481

$6,338,494,833

Taken from: City of Fort Collins, Colorado.

It is not an exaggeration to say that recycling helps ease demand for certain resources that are being extracted in emerging nations under war-torn, repressive governments. For example, a mineral called Tantalum—better known as "coltan"—is used to produce capacitors in electronic devices, especially cell phones (from which it can be recycled). Coltan mining is contributing to political tension between Congo and Rwanda, as well as loss of habitat for the threatened Eastern Lowland Gorilla. Smuggled coltan has been implicated as a major source of income for the military occupation of Congo.

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