How does recycling conserve energy?

By now, almost everyone is feeling the effects of climate change. Weather patterns are changing, ecosystems are suffering, and countries are scrambling to amend their production and consumption patterns before it is too late for everyone.

One of the biggest contributors to climate change is energy usage and generation from fossil fuels, from the carbon gases released on combustion and the ecosystem damage caused during the extraction process.

By becoming energy-efficient, we can mitigate the extent to which global temperatures go up and conserve our rapidly depleting stock of energy resources. Everyone knows recycling is essential for the environment in terms of saving landfill space and avoiding resource wastage.

But how does recycling help the environment directly and contribute to energy savings? The answer is – in significant ways. The global recycling industry has come a long way, and there are highly efficient processes to recycle materials like glass, plastic, paper and aluminium. Here, we discuss how recycling conserves energy in a big way:

Recycling vs. resource extraction: How does recycling conserve energy?

On the surface, recycling might not seem like a big deal. It is about putting cans and paper products into separate bins, right? The short answer to this – recycling saves resources, thus reducing the impact on the planet, thus saving costs.

No matter what the final product is, procuring resources from scratch can be extremely time-consuming. For instance, making aluminium requires one to mine and transport four tons of bauxite ore to a facility, where it must be smelted, mixed with caustic soda and heated to filter out impurities.

Or take plastic – oil and gas have to be refined into polymers, which are then melted and converted into pellets shaped into products. Processes like these consume a lot of electricity and water and release greenhouse gases as a by-product.

Plastic packaging alone, in fact, accounts for about 3% of greenhouse gas emissions. Needless to say, all of this is extremely expensive. How much energy is saved by recycling plastic, you ask? One ton of recycled plastic saves 5774 kWh of energy and up to 2000 gallons of gasoline. We save on all the energy expended in virgin resource procurement and on the labour required to make it happen.

Since recycled products have already been extracted, preparing them for final use requires up to 30% less energy. It is simply a matter of collecting and separating them, and then processing them into final products. This is significantly better for the environment and much cheaper too.

Why do we need to save energy?

Now that is a big question. Energy is life, and all life processes depend on it to grow and thrive. By being energy-efficient, we can conserve natural resources and minimise pollution. Consuming energy releases carbon and other gases that could harm the environment. Here are the top reasons why we must save energy:

  • It helps save a lot of money.
  • It minimises oil spills and environmental damage resulting from procuring oil and coal.
  • It drastically reduces the use of fossil fuels, an unclean source of electricity generation, and keeps greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint on the downlow.
  • It reduces radioactive waste generated by nuclear reactors.

How does recycling save energy, exactly?

Now that you know the benefits of saving energy, recycling is a viable option. But how much energy can recycling save exactly? The UK generates 26m tonnes of waste and out of that 12m tonnes are recycled, which gives an average recycling rate of 45%.

You see – recycling saves time, energy, and money. But to look at the precise difference recycling makes in the country, we must dig deep. Numbers talk, so let us look at some:

  • Manufacturing with recycled plastic cuts energy usage by 66%.
  • One ton of recycled aluminium saves around 40 barrels of oil and 14000 kWh of energy.
  • Recycling a single aluminium can saves up to 95% of the energy needed to make a new one.
  • The energy saved from recycling a glass bottle can light up an LED bulb for more than four hours.
  • One ton of recycled paper saves 463 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water and seventeen 30-foot high trees.
  • A glass bottle thrown into the recycling bin can be reconverted into a final shelf product in as little as 30 days.
  • One ton of recycled glass saves 42 kWh of energy and nearly 700 pounds of CO2 from being released, in addition to saving on resources like soda, ash and limestone. Moreover, glass is 100% recyclable, which means it can be recycled endlessly without affecting its purity.

There are other cost advantages worth noting here. By reducing non-recyclable waste levels, your business can be eligible for exemptions from the Plastic Packaging Tax or the Landfill Tax.

Product designers are coming up with creative ideas for recycled material that can save more money – for instance, you can install wall insulation made out of recycled glass and thus reduce your heating bills even further.

And last but not least, consumers are increasingly becoming conscious of how their consumption patterns affect the planet and are pushing for a move towards a circular economy.

Investing in recycling and committing to sustainable practices can improve your brand reputation and thus attract more loyal customers.

Final words

As recently as 2018, nine out of ten UK companies did not have a recycling policy. This has improved, but there is plenty of room for improvement, especially if the world is to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement and avert an irreparable global crisis.

It is easy to dismiss recycling as an unnecessary activity, but as we have illustrated above, there are clear and immediate advantages involved.

So, when you choose to invest in a recycling programme for your business, you are not just helping the environment – you are padding your bottom line. Waste2ES is working towards offering a comprehensive suite of innovative technologies to reduce the broader adverse environmental impact and carbon emissions.

Choose one of our environmentally-friendly food waste management solutions or wastewater and FOG treatment products. Or, protect your workforce from injury with smart bin lifting equipment. Look after your planet, look after your people. Go ahead with what you can recycle – with Waste2ES. Check out our website for more info.

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