When we talk about climate change, we usually talk about improving fuel efficiency or increasing use of public transit. That makes sense, because in Washington, transportation is the single biggest source of our greenhouse gas emissions.
But did you know that recycling can also have a significant impact on the amount of greenhouse gases we produce?
It’s true. Collecting, processing, and transporting recycled materials almost always uses less energy than extracting, refining, transporting, and processing raw materials.
Consider the humble aluminum beverage can: To make an ordinary 12-ounce can, using recycled aluminum instead of raw materials reduces energy consumption by 95 percent.
Let’s run the numbers on a larger scale:
- In 2013, 8 million tons of material were collected for recycling in Washington. This effort:
- Saved energy equivalent to 1 billion gallons of gasoline, or more than 128 trillion British thermal units (BTUs) of energy.Prevented 3.1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions — about 905 pounds per person.
- That impact is similar to taking 2.4 million vehicles off the road.