Recycling and Climate Change
Many of us recycle and most of us are also aware that the climate is changing due to human activities. But are the two related? In fact, yes! Recycling and waste reduction are actually very much related to climate change. The energy used in the industrial processing of virgin materials and in their transportation, involves burning fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and coal, all major sources of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. While manufacturing goods from recycled materials still requires energy, it is much less than extracting, processing, and transporting virgin raw materials. Recycling and waste reduction also avoid emissions caused by incinerators and landfills which produce large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane (21 times more potent than carbon dioxide). Waste reduction and recycling also slow the harvesting of forests, which act as carbon sinks, meaning they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Check out this page for an illustration of the energy consumed in manufacturing.
So how do your individual recycling efforts affect greenhouse gas emissions? Check out the EPA's Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to see how many pounds of carbon dioxide your household emits per year.
Did you know?...
- The U.S. recycles approximately 32 percent of its waste which saves an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases to removing 39,618 cars from the road.
- Increasing the recycling rate to 35 percent would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 5.2 Million Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent.
- Net carbon emissions are four to five times lower when materials are produced from recycled steel, copper, glass, and paper. They are 40 times lower for aluminum.
- Just one person recycling their newspaper, magazines, plastic, glass, and metal for one year is enough to save 471 pounds of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. If all 62,000 UM students, faculty, and staff recycled this amount for a year this would be equivalent to taking 2,413 cars off the road.
Content modified: Aug 22, 2014