As I sit down to write this blog I had just taken out my recycling this morning. I feel that it is only fitting that I am writing about the personal aspect of recycling and recyclability. I think throughout these blogs I have blurred the lines a little bit between recycling and recyclability. However, I think it is hard to separate the two and claim that one is independent from the other. Without the recyclability of a product there would be no recycling and on the circle would go. So that being said, I am going to focus this post on recycling and we can do personally in that realm of life and of design.
The first thing that I think when I think recycling is cans and bottles - glass, plastic and aluminum - and paper. But there are so many other products that can be recycled and reused in various ways. I did some digging and pulled a bunch of facts regarding what we can do as individuals to help recycle and "go green" and what can and does happen as a result of or recycling (or the lack thereof).
This is a cool graphic representing what our trash is made up of. Notice how much of it are things that could be recycled.
Bet you never thought of recycling your water. Well here are a few ways that you can:
*If all U.S. households installed water-efficient appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year!
*The average bathroom faucet flows at a rate of two gallons per minute. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth in the morning and at bedtime can save up to 8 gallons of water per day, which equals 240 gallons a month.
*Letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.
*A full bath tub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons.
If / when you own a home there are a lot of simple ways that you can help save energy:
*Improperly sealed/caulked windows can account for up to 25% of total heat loss from a house.
*If every household replaced its most often-used incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, electricity use for lighting could be cut in half.
*Today's dishwashers are about 95% more energy-efficient than those bought in 1972 -- your old dishwasher may be costing you more money in energy bills than it would take to buy a new one.
As designers, paper is a huge issue with misprints, proofs, reprints etc. Here are some things we can do at home and think about as we enter into the workplace:
*Each of us uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year.
And as designers I'm sure that number is higher. However, paper is a material that has high recyclability and so there is a lot of good news:
*Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 2 barrels of oil, and 4,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity -- enough energy to power the average American home for five months.
*More than 56 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. during 2007 was recovered for recycling -- an all-time high. This impressive figure equals nearly 360 pounds of paper for each man, woman, and child in America. [I would like to think that number is even higher in 2008 and 2009.]
* Recycled paper can also be made into paper towels, notebook paper, envelopes, copy paper and other paper products, as well as boxes, hydro-mulch, molded packaging, compost, and even kitty litter.
We all drink soda or use things that have metal or aluminum in them once and awhile. Here is what recycling those products can do:
*Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one can out of new material.
* When you toss out one aluminum can you waste as much energy as if you'd filled the same can half-full of gasoline and poured it into the ground.
*Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
* More than 50% of a new aluminum can is made from recycled aluminum.
*The 36 billion aluminum cans landfilled last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million. (Some day we'll be mining our landfills for the resources we've buried.)
If your daily products don't come in metal or aluminum they come in glass or plastic. Here are some facts about those materials:
*Glass never wears out -- it can be recycled forever. We save over a ton of resources for every ton of glass recycled -- 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar.
*If every American household recycled just one out of every ten HDPE bottles they used, we'd keep 200 million pounds of the plastic out of landfills every year.
Styrofoam is a very unnecessary evil.
*It is un-recyclable- you can't make it into new Styrofoam. The industry wants you to assume it is- don't BUY it!
*Each year American throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, enough every year to circle the earth 436 times
These few facts about junk mail just make me sad:
*If only 100,000 people stopped their junk, mail, we could save up to 150,000 trees annually. If a million people did this, we could save up to a million and a half trees.
*The junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.
This last one is something that we could definitely consider often as designers. Especially if we end up having any influence over packaging some day.
*$1 out of every $11 Americans spend for food goes for packaging.
If you're wondering what things can/should be recycled here is a pretty good list. Obviously the bins are specific to a location, but this will at least give a good idea of what should be going into the recycling.
For more facts and information visit: