Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Benefits of Recycling

By Dan Weston, Recycling Data Analyst

Each year, Ecology's Waste 2 Resources Program collects recycling data from facilities throughout the state and compiles them in our Annual Solid Waste Status Report. Recycling in Washington continues to result in significant environmental and economic gains, and we track our progress from year to year in this report.

Saving energy

In 2012, over 8 million tons of material were collected for recycling across the state. Using recycled material to make paper, plastics, glass, and metal products requires less energy than extracting, refining, transporting, and processing raw materials.

The 8 million tons of material collected saved roughly 1 billion gallons of gasoline, equal to 128 trillion BTUs (British thermal units) of energy, which is enough to power 1.1 million homes for a year (nearly half the households in Washington)!

Reducing pollution

Recycling also keeps materials out of landfills where they can contaminate groundwater and generate greenhouse gases (GHGs), reduces the amount of pollution entering the air and water, and keeps materials out of incinerators that can pollute the air and create ash residue.

The amount of material recycled in 2012 prevented 2.6 million tons of GHG emissions, similar to keeping 1.9 million cars off the road each year. It also reduced the 27 different types of air and water pollution that are produced when raw materials are used for manufacturing.

Conserving natural resources

Recycling reduces the harmful effects of mining and logging on the landscape. Supplying industry with recycled materials, instead of virgin resources from forests and mines, conserves these scarce resources.

By recycling over 1.5 million tons of scrap metal in 2012, Washington avoided mining and processing nearly 3 million tons of limestone, iron ore, and coal.

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