While most people understand the importance of recycling, the impact the practice can have on the environment can be hard to fully imagine. For example, did you know that the U.S produces enough plastic a year to cover the entire state of Texas like a giant Jell-O mold? Or that manufacturers use 88 percent less energy when creating plastic made from recycled materials rather than from raw materials like oil and gas? Or that enough plastic bottles are thrown away each year in the U.S. that if laid end-to-end they could circulate the globe four times?
At Seraphim Plastics, we remain committed to doing our part to help improve the community and world around us by being one of the leading innovators in plastic recycling. While great strides have been made over the last decade when it comes to plastic recycling, as the numbers mentioned above can attest, we still have a long way to go in the U.S. to reduce plastic waste.
It’s not just plastic where recycling improvements can be made. From metal to paper to water usage, the U.S. economy and manufacturing takes a heave toll on the world’s available resources. To give you a better understanding of just how many resources we use each year, here are some handy facts to help you appreciate the impact recycling can have on the world around us.
Like every industrialized nation, America is highly dependent on the use of metals in construction and manufacturing. Unfortunately, the country doesn’t do enough when it comes to recycling the metals its uses, which ends up costing more in energy and raw materials then when metals are recycled.
Americans throw away enough aluminum each month to rebuild every commercial airplane in use in the states. Considering that throwing away an aluminum can wastes the energy equivalent of burning half a can of gasoline, failing to recycle costs an enormous amount of energy and raw materials. Just consider that recycling one aluminum can save enough energy to power a 100 watt light bulb for 20 hours, your laptop for three hours and a high-def. TV for two hours the next time you throw an empty soda or beer can into the trash rather than the recycling bin.
We also dispose of enough steel and iron a year to continuously supply every domestic automaker; meaning that if every piece of steel and iron could be recycled and used, car manufacturers could build their products entirely from recycled materials without ever needing to use raw materials again. Not only would raw material usage go down with better recycling, but steel mills that use recycled material reduce the levels of mining waste, air pollution and water pollution they emit by nearly 70 percent.
While going “paperless” has made a huge impact on the amount of raw, un-recycled paper materials used in the U.S., recycling efforts for paper have still fallen short. Currently only 48 percent of paper used in office environments finds its way to a recycling center, while 74 percent of newspapers are recovered. Recycled paper is used in the construction of items such as insulation, tissue, paperboard and writing paper.
The process of recycling paper instead of creating paper from raw materials uses 50 percent less water and generates 74 percent less air pollution. In addition to having a gentler impact on the environment, recycled paper also uses significantly less raw materials. Just one ton of recycled paper saves 17 fully grown trees, 7,000 gallons of water, three cubic yards of landfill space, two oil barrels and 4,000-kilowatt hours of electricity. Combined, that amount of energy could successfully power the average American home for five full months.
While you can’t really recycle water at home, you can have an enormous impact on reducing waste through better water management. Running a faucet at home uses 2.5 gallons of water every minute, and for every five minutes a faucet runs, it uses up the equivalent energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours.
Fortunately, it’s easy to reduce the amount of water you use at home by consciously looking for ways to cut back. For example, instead of washing dishes by hand, put them into a dishwasher, which only uses 11 gallons total per load. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth at night can save over five gallons a day and 240 gallons a month. Finally, a five-minute shower uses between 10 to 25 gallons of water, while filling up the average size bathtub requires 70 gallons of water, or the equivalent of one 20-minute shower.