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Facts About Recycling

Facts About Recycling

Here at eSkip we're passionate about recycling and waste reduction in our everyday lives. In this article we start by discussing the benefits of recycling and list some handy facts about general recycling. Later in the blog post we drill down into detailed facts about recycling plastic, paper, glass, metal, batteries and electronic waste. 

Why Recycle?

Recycling is the process of making new products from used materials.  This not only has many benefits for the environment, but also for the future of the human race. Using recycled materials rather than virgin materials in manufacturing:

  • Releases less air and water pollutants
  • Reduces demand on trees, water, and minerals
  • Reduces emissions of greenhouse gases
  • Reduces the need for landfills and incinerators
  • Creates jobs which help the state and national economy
  • Helps to sustain the environment for future generations

recycling sign on green grass

General Facts About Recycling

- On average, 10-15% of the money you spend on a product pays for the packaging, which ultimately ends up as waste.

- Up to 80% of a vehicle can be recycled.

- It costs about $30 per ton to recycle rubbish, $50 to transport it to a landfill, and $70 to incinerate it.

- Recycling creates 1.1 million U.S. jobs and $37 billion in annual payrolls.

- In Australia 40,927 jobs are associated with recycling activities. According to a study by Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 22,243 of these jobs are directly linked to recycling with a further 18,684 indirect jobs have been created by recycling activities.

- The average household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper every year which is mostly junk mail and packaging.

- Landfills are responsible for approximately 36% of all methane emissions.  Methane is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

- Yard trimmings and garden waste make up 20% of the solid waste in US.  Less than one quarter of this amount is recovered for composting.

- More than half of the MSW (municipal solid waste) that ends up in a landfill is highly recyclable material.


Energy Savings

Extracting and processing raw materials to make new products requires a lot of energy.  Removal or reduction of these processes in manufacturing operations results in huge energy savings.

Recycled Aluminium  95%
Recycled Copper 85%
Recycled Plastics 80%
Recycled Steel 74%
Recycled Paper 70%
Recycled Rubber 69%
Recycled Lead 65%



Recycling Paper

What are the benefits of recycling paper?

In addition to conserving trees, there are many other reasons why it is important to recycle paper and paperboard waste. Recycling these resources provides raw materials to various industries, which can save money on the production of new goods, and recycling also creates jobs and allows the expansion of green technologies and industries.

From an ecological standpoint, recycling paper products reduces the need for landfills and incinerators, while also preventing water pollution and the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the environment.

Energy Conservation

When used paper products are recycled into new materials, less energy is required than is needed for the production of virgin paper products. In fact, creating products from recycled paper requires anywhere from 28-70% less energy than is needed to make the same products from brand new, raw materials.

The production of goods from recycled paper also requires far less water. This is because, when dealing with recyclable paper, there is no need to turn wood into pulp. It is during the process of converting wood into pulp that the most water is used. In fact, recycling 1 ton of paper can save a dramatic 30,000 litres of water.

Forest Conservation

Tree farms are the primary source for wood that will be converted into new paper. These farms consist of fast-growing trees that are cut down and replaced with new trees. However, as the demand for paper products has skyrocketed, the need for more wood has led to the need to clear valuable forests, which serve as vital ecosystems and wildlife habitats. These forests are replaced by “sustainable” tree farms, but because of the lack of diversity of tree species on managed farms, wildlife is displaced, and delicate ecosystems are damaged.

Recycling reduces the need to clear old growth forests to plant tree farms. By recycling paper, forests remain as they should, because demand will be met by products that have been created using recycled paper instead.

Pollution Reduction

The production of new paper products requires the use of oil, in addition to the use of chlorine during the bleaching process, which results in the release of toxic dioxin into the environment. Additionally, even though paper is a biodegradable product, as it breaks down in landfills, it releases methane gas that contributes to global warming.

Recycled paper, on the other hand, is typically not re-bleached. If it is re-bleached, oxygen, rather than chlorine, is the agent used. Furthermore, recycling 1 ton of paper saves 1,800 litres of oil. Therefore, by recycling paper and purchasing products made from recycled paper, consumers can help reduce the number of pollutants released into the air and water.

The act of recycling paper clearly has many quantifiable effects on the global environment and on industry as well, replacing polluting manufacturing processes with renewable, greener technology, while allowing natural forests to thrive.

 piles of paper for recycling

Facts About Recycling Paper

Quick Facts

  1. Relating the amount of paper recycled to the number of trees saved is meaningless as tree size varies greatly.
  2. Production of paper grocery bags generate 70% more air pollution and 50% more water pollution than plastic bags.
  3. 21% of paper grocery bags are recycled.
  4. It takes approximately 91% more energy to recycle 1kg of paper than 1kg of plastic.
  5. The pulp and paper industry is the world's fifth largest consumer of energy.
  6. For one ton of product, the pulp and paper industry uses more water than any other industry.
  7. Black and White toner contains at least six different substances which are considered hazardous and toxic to the water supply.
  8. 30-35% of trees logged in the US are used to produce paper.
  9. Office print is the second largest source of pollution in the United States, second to vehicle exhaust.
  10. Recycling 1 ton of newspaper saves 1 ton of wood. Recycling 1 one of copy paper saves slightly more than 2 tons of wood. This is because twice as much wood is used to produce higher quality paper like copy paper.
  11. 90% of paper pulp is made from wood.
  12. Most cardboard boxes have over 25% recycled fibres and some are 100% recycled fibre.
  13. The average American uses the equivalent of one 100ft tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products every year.
  14. Enough wood and paper is thrown away in one year to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.
  15. Old growth forests account for 9% of world pulp production. 16% of pulp comes from trees raised in "farmed forests" specifically for pulp.
  16. One tree can filter up to 25kg of air pollutants per year.
  17. "Farmed forests" have widespread soil erosion and require large amounts of fertilizer. They also have little plant and wild-life biodiversity compared to virgin forests.
  18. Wood fibre can usually only be recycled up to 5 times after which the fibres become too short and weak to be useful for paper production.
  19. Many "soft" brands of toilet paper use more long fibre from virgin tree pulp while recycled toilet paper is often "harder" and unbleached.
  20. In 2007 in the United States more than 56% (a record high) of the paper consumed was recovered for recycling.
  21. New newspapers, boxes, office supplies and copy paper, paper kitchen towels, toilet paper and tissues, food packaging, cat litter, insulation and moulded packaging are just some examples of the types of products made from recycled paper.


Myth: The paper industry contributes to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Fact: Deforestation in the Amazon results mostly from cattle ranches (60-70%), and the rest mostly results from small-scale subsistence farming.



Facts About Recycling Plastic

Quick Facts

  1. In Australia in 2017 3.4 million tonnes of plastic were used, of that amount only 9.4% was recycled.
  2. Dyes, fillers, and other additives are difficult to economically remove from plastic polymers
  3. Plastics require greater processing to be recycled than materials like glass and metal.
  4. PET flakes are used as raw material in the manufacturing of polyester clothing, pillows, carpets, and sometimes new PET bottles.
  5. PET bottles can be used as is for solar disinfection (SODIS) of drinking water in developing countries. Water-filled bottles should be exposed to direct sunlight for at least 6 hours.
  6. Bacteria will likely evolve the ability to metabolize plastics at much faster rates.
  7. In 2006 a record high 1 billion kilograms of plastic bottles were recycled.
  8. In the United States 70% of plastics are made from a by-product of refining domestic natural gas.
  9. Americans use 25,000,000,000 plastic bottles every year.
  10. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge mass of garbage, estimated around 80% plastic, located between San Francisco and Hawaii.
  11. The most commonly recycled plastics are PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and HDPE (high-density polyethylene).
  12. More than 50% of the polyester carpet manufactured in the United States is made from recycled plastic bottles.

Environmental Pollution from Waste Plastic

Plastic pollution is a major environmental concern that can be curbed by recycling plastic materials, such as bottles, containers, and bags. However, it is not always easy to find businesses that will collect and recycle certain types of plastic, making it difficult for the average consumer to recycle all of their plastic goods.

While the need to recycle plastic is clear, it’s unfortunate that not all municipalities collect every type of plastic for recycling. In fact, they may place restrictions upon the types of plastics that are collected for recycling, forcing the consumer to have no other choice but to discard the plastic into the waste stream. When this occurs, the plastics end up in landfills or somewhere in the environment, leading to ecological damage and injuries to wildlife.

The number embossed onto a plastic item can be used to determine the type of plastic it is made from.  The code also indicates how the material can be recycled, whether it means finding a special facility that will accept it or leaving it curb side for municipal pickup.


Recycling Symbols and Recyclability of Different Plastics

PETE Plastic Recycle Symbol



PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terepthalate): Indicated by the number 1, this type of plastic is the most commonly recycled plastic. The items that are typically composed of this plastic include food and drink containers.

HDPE Plastic Recycle Symbol

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): This type of plastic is represented by the number 2, and bottles containing personal care items are usually made using this plastic. Many municipalities recycle HDPE plastic without a problem, though some may have restrictions on the types of bottles accepted.

PVC Plastic Recycle Symbol

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): Consumer items, such as heavier food containers and bottles, as well as medical products, windows, siding, and piping can be made from this type of plastic, represented by the number 3. The chemicals within this type of plastic make it highly toxic, however it is rarely recycled because it is difficult to find organizations that will do so.

LDPE Plastic Recycle Symbol

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): Indicated by the code 4.  Number 4 plastics are often found in everything from carpets to plastic bags and food packaging. Plastic bags are usually accepted at stores where recycling programs are available. Otherwise, this type of plastic is often not accepted by most municipalities’ recycling pickup services.

PP Plastic Recycle Symbol

PP (Polypropylene): Many food containers, as well as medicine bottles, are made from number 5 plastics, which are usually quite easy to recycle.

Polystyrene Plastic Recycle Symbol

PS (Polystyrene): Represented by the number 6, this type of plastic is found in many items, including CD cases and disposable food utensils. It is also found in Styrofoam. Some, but not all, municipal curb side pickup services will recycle this type of plastic.

Other Plastics Recycle Symbol

All other resins and multi-materials: The number 7 represents any plastic that doesn’t fit into any of the other six categories of plastics. This type of plastic is found in a variety of items, such as sunglasses, nylon, signs, DVDs, electronic devices, and very large bottles. For the most part, these plastics are not recycled, though some programs are available that now do collect them from consumers.


 plastic pollution harming sea turtle

Facts About Recycling Metal

Quick Facts

  1. Steel and iron are the most recycled metals and are among the easiest waste products to reuse.  This is due to the ease of the waste separation process with the use of powerful magnets rather than manual processing.
  2. Recycled metal accounts for over 40% of all crude steel.
  3. Aluminium cans are the most recycled consumer item in the world.
  4. Aluminium drink cans account for the most aluminium compared to any other industry.
  5. 70% of all metals used in industry are disposed of after only a single use. Therefore, only 30% is recycled.  Following five recycling processes only 0.25% of the original metal is still in circulation.
  6. Throwing away an aluminium can wastes the same amount of energy as filling up that same can with petrol and setting it on fire.
  7. Aluminium recycling is such a quick process that a recycled can is able to be reformed, filled and back on supermarkets shelves in as little as two months.
  8. 100 million steel and tin cans are used every day in the USA alone.
  9. Recycling at steel mills is much more efficient than producing steel from scratch. Waste and pollution are reduced by 70% when using wholly recycled materials.
  10. Collecting steel cans from domestic and commercial waste is very easy. Powerful magnets are used to attract steel can and extract them from the waste as it move past on conveyor belts.
  11. 60% of food and drink cans in supermarkets are made of steel.


Metal Recycling

Metal, in general, is an easily recyclable material. Steel and aluminium are two of the most common types of metals in use and both can be recycled. The recycling of metals does not stop with aluminium cans. A few consumer items that can be recycled are household appliances, cars, stainless steel items, and empty propane tanks. Other common recyclable items include auto parts, doors and windows, and parts of demolished buildings.  

The metals listed below are just a few of the types of metal that can be recycled:

- Aluminium
- Iron
- Steel (including stainless steel)
- Iron
- Copper
- Lead
- Tin
- Zinc
- Brass
- Bronze
- Magnesium

While larger items may need to be picked up by a company specializing in metal recycling, consumers can usually have their municipalities pick up aluminium and steel items for recycling, making it easy for individuals to contribute to the recycling initiative.  Some delivery companies will pick up old household appliances when they deliver a new appliance to a home. These companies will often be able to salvage the metals and turn a profit.  If a consumer chooses to bring his recyclable metals to a facility themselves, they may be able to find a company that will pay him in return for the scrap metals he is able to provide. Larger appliances, such as washers and refrigerators, can be picked up by these companies as well.

 steel cans for recycling

Environmental Benefits of Recycling Metals

Recycling helps keep metal waste out of landfills where they would pollute the soil and water, posing a health hazard to humans and wildlife.  Recycling metals also conserves high amounts of energy. Metals can be recycled and used again and endless number of times, thus resulting in substantial energy savings over the long term.  When aluminium is recycled, 95% less energy is consumed, while recycled iron and steel use 74% less energy and copper uses 85% less energy.

In addition to the energy savings, purchasing and using recycled metal also saves valuable natural resources that would otherwise be removed from the environment. By choosing recycled aluminium products, manufacturers use much less bauxite ore.



Facts About Recycling Glass

Quick Facts

  1. Approximately 46% of glass containers are recovered for recycling in Australia according to the Department of the Environment and Energy.
  2. Most glass bottles and jars contain about 25% recycled glass.
  3. Like aluminium and steel, glass can be recycled indefinitely.
  4. States which have enacted bottle deposit laws typically have about 40% less litter by volume.
  5. Recycling glass saves about 25% of the energy required to produce glass from virgin materials.
  6. For every ton of glass produced from raw materials 12.6kg (~28 lbs) of air pollution is released into the atmosphere.
  7. Glass can be recycled into an asphalt substitute called Glassphalt.
  8. Glass can also be recycled into sand for beaches suffering from erosion.
  9. Glass makes up about 8% of all household garbage.
  10. Although there is no shortage of raw materials for glass these materials must be quarried from our landscape.  This process defaces the landscape, wastes energy, and pollutes the environment.
  11. The glass typically used in Glassphalt is from windows, Pyrex, mirrors, and crystal.  These have a higher melting point and can ruin a batch of recycled bottle glass.
  12. Most glass in the United States, about 75%, is used for packaging.
  13. Glass that is meant for recycling is crushed so that it takes up less space.  The crushed glass is referred to as cullet.


Glass Recycling

Glass can be recycled endlessly without losing its quality, durability, and strength. Many municipalities and councils offer curb side pickup services that will bring used glass items to recycling facilities. If a curb side program is not available, it should be easy to locate a site that will accept glass products brought in by individuals. Some areas offer a monetary reward for each glass bottle that is brought to a recycling facility, creating an incentive for people to recycle their used glass products.

Recycling glass is a rather quick process. In as little as one month’s time, a glass item can be picked up from one’s home, transported to a recycling facility, remade into a new glass item, and distributed to a company that will then utilize the product and sell it in stores.  The entire glass product can be recycled without any residual waste. Many new glass items contain roughly 70% or more recycled glass within them.

glass bottles for recycling

Environmental Benefits of Recycling Glass

When glass is recycled, there is no need to mine raw materials, meaning natural resources remain in their natural state in the environment. When a ton of glass is recycled, 410 pounds of soda ash, 1,300 pounds of sand, and 380 pounds of limestone are conserved.

In addition to preserving natural resources, energy is also conserved when glass is recycled, as opposed to manufacturing from virgin materials. About 40% less energy is required when glass is made from recycled material.

Recycling glass also prevents used glass products from taking up space in landfills. Glass does not biodegrade so will remain there indefinitely. It can take up to one million years before glass breaks down.  Like plastic, glass can become an environmental hazard to both wildlife and humans if it is not kept out of the environment. 


Facts About Recycling E-Waste

Quick Facts

  1. Solar panels will become one of Australia's largest source of electronic waste. Solar panel waste may be one millions tonnes by 2047.
  2. Monitors and televisions with cathode ray tubes (CRTs) contain 2-4kg (4-8lbs) of lead on average.
  3. Electronic waste is the biggest source of lead found in solid waste.
  4. Circuit boards in computers and other electronics contain toxic materials like chromium, nickel, and zinc.
  5. Switches and liquid crystal displays (LCDs) may contain mercury.
  6. Batteries may contain nickel and cadmium.
  7. Electronic waste, by some estimates, contributes 70% of the various heavy metals found in landfill sites.
  8. E-waste represents about 2% of the total mass in landfills.
  9. An imploded cathode ray tube is very difficult and expensive to recycle.
  10. E-waste may contain carcinogenic substances including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
  11. E-waste is often exported (sometimes illegally) to developing countries including China, Malaysia, India, Kenya, and other African countries.  More lenient environmental regulations make it more profitable to process e-waste in these countries.
  12. About 80% (this figure is disputed) of the e-waste sent for recycling in the U.S. is actually packed on container ships and sent to countries such as China.
  13. Poor controls over e-waste recycling methods can cause groundwater contamination, air pollution, water pollution, and health effects in those directly involved.
  14. Greenpeace contends that residue from e-waste is so dangerous that the export of used electronics should be banned.
  15. Less than 20% of e-waste is recycled in the United States.
  16. E-waste can also contain valuable substances suitable for reclamation including copper and gold.
  17. The largest electronic waste site in the world is found in Guiyu, China. The site employs an estimated 160,000 workers who work 16 hours a day for making just $1.50 a day by sorting valuable metals and spare parts from the waste.

Recycling E-waste

Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is a new form of waste that came about with the production and advancement of technology. Due to the toxic components within electronic devices, including computers, televisions, and batteries, music devices, and mobile phones, there is a great need to recycle e-waste and keep it out of the environment.

An estimated 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste is dumped into landfills around the world every year.  As technology advances quickly and consumers constantly update their personal technology devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, digital cameras), the amount of e-waste entering landfills is increasing daily.   Most consumers are not aware of the dangers resulting from disposing of their electronic items in the trash bin.  Electronic devices are loaded with toxic chemicals that, when in landfills, leak out into the environment and contaminate soil, water, and even the air.

A few of the many toxins found in e-waste include cadmium, barium, lead, phosphorous, and brominated flame retardants.

Many different materials make up electronic devices, including steel, aluminium, copper, gold, silver, and plastic, all of which can be recycled into new items. The electronic components, on the other hand, can often be refurbished and resold, thereby keeping them out of landfills.

Some municipalities and stores offer battery collections for recycling, while mobile phone companies may be willing to take an old cell phone to have it refurbished or recycled properly.  If one is trying to dispose of a large amount of e-waste it is worth doing some research beforehand.  They may find a manufacturer willing to pick up the waste and recycle it.

pile of electronic waste 

Battery Recycling

 The fascination of electronic gadgets is leading to a potentially lethal side effect – battery pollution, which is rapidly becoming a prevalent and dangerous global pollution issue.

An essential part of modern life; batteries not only power all consumer electronics, but also provide support for transportation, military operations, hospitals and utilities. Statistics show that on an average, six wireless products are used by consumers on a daily basis and cell phones are replaced every 18–24 months. All these batteries add to the toxic waste stream.

Batteries have two elements that assist in the creation of power: an electrolyte and a heavy metal. After sustained use, all batteries eventually weaken and reach the end of their life cycle. The used battery turns to hazardous waste, which is poisonous to the environment. Recycling batteries keeps them out of groundwater supplies and other areas of the environment.

batteries for recycling

Battery Pollution Concerns

Batteries contain heavy metals – lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, and lithium, depending on the type.

While these toxic materials pose no threat to human health when in use, it is when they are spent and improperly disposed off that the toxic materials within these batteries turns extremely dangerous to the environment. 

As a regular practice, most used batteries are trashed and make their way to a landfill. The untreated toxins in the heavy metals then seep into soil, groundwater, streams and lakes causing contamination. Batteries can be dangerous even when they are “thermally treated.”  During the process, the heavy metals are released into the air; the resultant ash also pollutes the environment.

The extent of the potential harm caused by mercury pollution can be explained by looking at an example from Japan.  In the 1960’s, hundreds of people were killed, paralyzed and crippled, after eating fish contaminated by mercury waste from a chemical plant.


Benefits of Battery Recycling

  •  Recycling batteries rather than allowing them to release their toxic metals in a landfill ensures soil and water are not polluted, thus helping keep the environment safe.
  • The metals and plastic from the batteries are reused, reducing the need for raw materials.
  • Since recycled materials are used in the manufacture of new batteries, the new batteries cost less, saving the consumer money.
  • With the large global demand on batteries, recycling helps reduce significant space in landfills.


Battery Recycling Process

The recycling process varies between batteries with different chemistries.

Lead-acid automotive batteries

These are the type used in motor vehicles. About 95% of these batteries are recycled. They are either collected for recycling by the local waste agencies and automotive stores or by retailers selling these batteries.

The plastic components of these batteries are separated by crushing them into small pieces. The plastic and the purified lead are then used by manufacturers in the creation of new plastic products and batteries, as well as in other industries.

Nonautomotive lead-based batteries

Used in industrial equipment, alarm systems, and in emergency lighting.

The recycling process is similar to automotive batteries. These batteries may be given to a local waste agency or an automotive store for recycling.

Dry-cell batteries

Rechargeable, alkaline, button-cell, and zinc-carbon batteries are dry-cell, and are used in most consumer products. Often local retailers will take depleted batteries back from customers.



Battery Recycling Schemes

Today, most countries have recognized the dangers caused by batteries and have legislation in place that requires proper disposal and recycling. Governments are encouraging people to reduce their waste volume and recycle potential waste as much as possible.

Australia has just launched new household recycling scheme called B-cycle. B-cycle provides a searchable database of thousands of drop off points for recycling batteries. All batteries collected using this scheme are guaranteed to be recycled which is vital for keeping old batteries out of landfill site. The scheme is supported by the Federal and all State Governments and is authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

In the US, there are laws that prohibit disposal of batteries and retailers are required to accept used batteries. In North America, there is a battery collection program called “Call2Recycle” that collects rechargeable batteries and cell phones for free. In Switzerland, batteries are handed over at the supermarket for recycling. In some places, there are drop off centres for the disposal of used batteries. Belgium is one country that has been highly successful in battery recycling.


Final Thoughts

Although challenging, even most hazardous waste can be recycled safely and effectively which has obvious benefits to the environment. In addition to reducing GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions, it can also reduce air and water pollution by keeping harmful materials out of landfills. You too can do your bit for the environment by hiring a skip bin from eSkip today.


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