Saturday, May 24, 2008

Aluminium Recycling Benefits the Community

Why Recycling Is Worth It

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Still wondering why you should bother recycling your aluminium cans? Just ask Greg Wittbecker. He's the director of Corporate Metal Recycling for Alcoa and a big proponent of boosting the paltry amount the U.S. recycles (52% of cans) to 75%.

What's the big deal? Greg says it's all about energy and waste disposal. "If we could recover and recycle 75% of the aluminium cans being currently tossed into landfills — 600,000 metric tons of aluminium — we could save 1286 megawatts of generated electricity. That’s the amount produced by two coal fired power plants, and consumed by two aluminium plants," says Greg. "Replacing this production with recycling would keep 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being generated and released into the atmosphere." It would also reduce the amount of mercury going into the environment, since power plants emit polluting mercury when they burn coal.

Why is recycling so efficient? According to Alcoa, recycling a ton of aluminium uses just 5% of the energy required to make virgin metal. Every tonne of recycled aluminium that Alcoa uses saves about 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the average American household consumes 920 kilowatts of electricity per month. Consequently, using 1 ton of recycled aluminium as opposed to 1 ton of virgin aluminium would make enough conserved energy available to power an American household for over 15 months.

Despite the compelling energy savings that accrue from recycling aluminuum, Americans are not recycling as much as other countries [how unusual!]. Compared to the 52% in the USA, consider how well the nations below are doing:” - Brazil 94.4%, Japan 90.9 % Germany 89 % and the Global Average is 63% and Western Europe 57.7%

Why the diff? On top of the "throw it away" mentality common among American households, many communities don't make it easy for citizens to do the right thing. More towns and cities need to offer curbside recycling programs or convenient recycling centres. Retailers that sell canned beverages could help, too, by setting up recycling centres on their premises. Eleven US states already put deposits on canned beverages to ensure that the cans are returned to the manufacturer. A number of Australian jurisdictions also offer container deposit schemes.

In Australia the packaging industry has vehemently opposed container deposit systems.

[partially sourced from ]

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