We typically give an immediate sigh of relief when we throw out our waste. Out of sight, out of mind. However, that isn't necessarily the end of the story.
Every one of us generates approximately four pounds of waste per person per day. That amounts to Americans generating 243 million tons of paper, plastic, metal, glass and other waste annually. Of that, we typically recover and reuse 34 percent of what we discard.
This November in celebration of America Recycles Day, we encourage you to think twice about what's in your waste bin. We all know that recycling is good for the environment, but did you know it could help the economy?
Increased use of recycled materials improves U.S. manufacturers' energy efficiency, which makes them more competitive and helps protect U.S.-based jobs. The latest recycling economic impact study done by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reports that the Ohio recycling industry "generates $22.5 billion in direct sales, employs more than 100,000 people and accounts for $650.6 million in state tax revenues."
Simply put, when manufacturers make new products out of the materials households and businesses recycle, they reduce their energy consumption, lower production costs and decrease emissions.
Let's use glass as an example.
It takes more energy to make a glass bottle from raw materials than using recycled glass bottles as the source material. For every 10 percent of recycled glass used in production, Owens-Illinois, one of the world's largest user of post-consumer glass, is able to use three percent less energy.
In practical terms, recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or a computer for 30 minutes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
But there's more to the story. Every 10 percent of recycled glass used in production also cuts carbon emissions by five percent, and every kilogram of recycled glass that is used in manufacturing replaces 1.2 kilograms of raw materials.
Using recycled post-consumer glass to make new containers keeps these products out of landfills and helps keep glass manufacturing costs low. Over time that amounts to huge savings and protects these highly skilled manufacturing jobs.
In order to reap long-term benefits from recycling, the rate of consumption and recycling needs to meet equilibrium in Ohio.
Currently, there is a void in that capacity. Nationally, about 25 percent of glass packaging is recycled. In Ohio, the number is much lower. Ohio households and businesses generate roughly 517,000 tons of glass per year; however, we only recycle about 11 percent of the total consumed.
If Americans, and Ohioans, are able to turn around these figures and recycle about 50 percent of our glass, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the energy savings would be enough to power 22,000 households for an entire year--that's the equivalent of powering several townships in the Fifth Congressional District.
If you'd like to celebrate America Recycles Day, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful and organizations across the U.S. to educate and motivate Americans to recycle, please drop off your glass bottles and other recyclable items at nearby recycling locations.