The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Can you help me find any detailed facts or statistics for recycling?  (Read 9440 times)

Offline dnsnthegrdn

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
I have spent hours and hours trying to find some real info about recycling.  Unfortunately most sites think that telling us that the average person throws away 4.4 pounds of trash/waste away every day.  Which is mind blowing to me.
But what I am wanting to know is what, how much of each type trash/waste.  How many trees can you prevent the use of if you don't use throw away paper products (plate, paper towel, etc.), how much energy are you saving by recycling aluminum or glass?  Details! I want real details! 

I am working on a site to encourage reusing, reducing, recycleing. (yeah, another one)  But I am wanting to give real details about the possitive effects such actions will produce.  It amazes me that you can't find this in a search on the internet.  I must be asking the wrong questions.

Any hoo, if anyone knows some good links, I shall ask the Gods to rain blessing on you.

« Last Edit: 25/03/2008 05:32:54 by Karen W. »


 

another_someone

  • Guest
It is all rather complicated.

The case for paper is particularly complicated, since most wood used for paper production is grown specifically for that purpose; so by increasing the recycling of paper, you may reduce the consumption of that wood, but you are also reducing the growth of new wood for that purpose (paper is usually made from fast growing wood, and tree planters will simply not grow the trees if there is no market for the paper).

There is also the problem with recycled paper that the fibres of the material are shorter each time it gets recycled (an additional problem is that for this reason I understand that shredded paper is no good for recycling), so recycled product generally has to be mixed with some real wood to keep the quality reasonable.  There is also the problem that the recycled paper is dirty, and so requires more chlorine to whiten it.

The other issue about paper and energy, if one is just looking at energy costs, the used paper can (rather than be recycled as new paper) simply be burnt as fuel, and so has an energy value itself that can be offset against any energy used to produce new paper.

Glass, in a sense, is easier, in that the raw materials for glass (primarily silica sand) is ofcourse a fixed quantity, so recycling will reduce the consumption of this resource (and the cost of creating new glass from sand is far greater than the cost of remelting old glass).  The bigger problem is that the physical weight of glass requires a lot of fuel costs to transport it, which is why glass has largely been replaced by much lighter plastics as a packaging material (despite many advantages regarding the inertness of glass as a packaging material), so the issue of recycling glass becomes ever less relevant.  You also have to bear in mind the cost of maintaining the recycling infrastructure (the collection and transportation of the used product for recycling), if that infrastructure is underutilised.

I know it does not really answer your question, and what I suppose I am saying is that when calculating issues such as materials and energy costs, don't forget the supporting transportation and infrastructure, and the other less obvious costs.
 


Offline techmind

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 934
  • Un-obfuscated
    • View Profile
    • techmind.org
I've heard that in the UK we have a problem that we import far more green glass (wine and beer bottles) than we can actually use here, so presumably some recycled green glass has to be shipped abroad...?

It's good to recycle aluminium (cans/foil/trays/lids/...), as aluminium manufacture is extremely energy intensive; it requires 16kWh of electricity to refine 1kg of virgin aluminium. Put another way, making new aluminium for a single 20g drinks-can uses as much electricity as running a conventional 40W bulb for 8 hours. Recyling aluminium uses only 5% as much energy.
Source for aluminium energy 16kWh/kg: http://www.world-aluminium.org/production/smelting/index.html

I think that recycling of paper, cardboard and plastics is often driven more by EU regulations to reduce landfill than actual energy savings. I know this is controversial, but I don't know where you get hard facts from. If people are rinsing out bottles etc with (especially hot) water before recycling which they might not if disposing, then this again adds energy costs.


It's not up to my usual standards of prose or impartiality, but I've tried to gather some numbers in a brief article at http://www.techmind.org/energy/calcs.html
« Last Edit: 10/01/2008 12:55:22 by techmind »
 

Offline stu43t

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 9
    • View Profile
I've heard that the government sells our waste plastic to China. We sort our waste out and the government sells it abroad, its a shame the profits aren't reflected in the council tax.
 

Offline stu43t

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 9
    • View Profile
I was correct about our rubbish going to China....


The UK's new rubbish dump: China

newbielink:http://www.guardian.co.uk/waste/story/0,12188,1308278,00.html [nonactive]

Recycling plastic is not as green as you think

newbielink:http://news.scotsman.com/ViewArticle.aspx?articleid=3498613 [nonactive]

Quote - "There are examples of old computer parts being exported to China where kids are sitting in the midst of bonfires of burning plastic, picking out diodes and electrical parts, and the plastic is then chucked on to a fire, producing a horrendous cocktail of chemicals. It's not just an environmental impact, it's a significant health impact."
« Last Edit: 11/01/2008 13:25:46 by stu43t »
 

Offline dnsnthegrdn

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Thank you for the links and info. The first two links unfortunately didn't work, but all the others did.  I didn't realize, though it doesn't surprise me, that China was buying up all of the plastic.

It's a shame that there can't be a better way to reuse paper.  I new there was a reason I compulsively use up every inch of the paper that comes in my house.  At least I keep it all together so there's no mess. [:-[]

The greatest gift you can give someone is knowledge.  So lay it on me!
 

Offline Karen W.

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 31653
  • Thanked: 5 times
  • "come fly with me"
    • View Profile
Here where I live recycling is a huge thing so check out these links and other Humboldt County recycling links!

Check out this 1rst one for more statistics: I know there are some more links but go from here. People are doing some really great things in the area of recycling!

http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/faq.htm


The other two may be of interest also.
http://www.cityofarcata.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=52

http://www.humboldtrecycling.org/
« Last Edit: 16/01/2008 07:42:12 by Karen W. »
 

Offline dnsnthegrdn

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Thank you Karen!  Great links, I've already opted-out of everything and sent the page to my email so I could forward it to all my contacts and encourage them to forward it to everyone they no and so on and so on.  That could help with reducing paper waste. 

In the area that I live in there is absolutely no respect for the land here.  People throw trash out on the roads, dump entire trash bags, it seems like it is the towns personal ambition to destroy as much land and create as much soil erosion they can with their four-wheelers.  I just don't understand it.  We have woods surrounding us, you would think that would be more incentive to keep it clean and healthy.  I guess these people think they are rebels.  Funny though, when the price of aluminum went up they were out on the roads collecting cans. 

Intelligence level = Maturity level  ???
 

The Naked Scientists Forum


 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums