Recycling saves energy

  • Published
  • By Ron Dell
  • 17th Civil Engineer Squadron Qualified Recycling Program Manager
We all know we should save energy at every opportunity, but did you know recycling also contributes to the nation's energy conservation drive?
Making the choice to recycle is a matter of personal effort that means taking a few moments to consider what gets thrown away or what can be recycled. For most paper items it is easy, use the paper recycling bin near you. In the United States, we discard enough paper each year to build a wall 48 feet high around the entire perimeter of the country.

Even though about 45 percent of discarded paper is recycled annually, 55 percent or 48 million tons of paper is thrown away or goes into landfills. It takes about 15 trees to make a ton of paper. That means that 720 million trees are used once and then buried in a landfill each year. Recycling is a matter of teamwork. Our efforts are multiplied by our teammates in the work area. Talk with facility managers to ensure enough large office area bins are in place.

For us, it should be a matter of doing the right thing for the environment. Eighty three percent of the world's land surface is under human influence, leaving only 17 percent natural environment. For every 2,000 square foot home constructed, it takes one acre of clear cut forest to produce enough lumber for that one home. It takes 30 years to re-generate that one acre of forest!

It takes 64 percent less energy to make recycled paper than it does to make paper from virgin wood pulp and can save many trees. For example, one Sunday edition of the New York Times consumes about 75,000 trees. Recycling paper saves trees, oil and water. In 2008, Team Goodfellow recycled 430 tons of paper and cardboard, saving 7,310 trees, 33,970 gallons of oil, and 3,010,000 gallons of water.

There are more economic benefits. Recycling results in lower solid waste disposal costs for the base, every pound that is recycled cuts into the base's hefty waste disposal bill. Recycling paper also saves energy, landfill space and reduces air pollution. For example, if we were to achieve an 80 percent paper recycling rate, it would equate to saving more than 1.7 million kilowatt hours of energy and diverting 573 tons of paper from the landfill. In addition, this 80 percent paper recycling rate would save 1,290 cubic yards of landfill space and eliminate over 126 tons of air pollution.

The key to success is taking advantage of the base's recycling program to its full extent. When we all pitch in, we can and do make a difference.