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Why Reducing, Reusing and Recycling Really *Does* Help the Environment

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Kathryn Smith
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Permission is granted to freely reprint this article, quote it, excerpt, etc. The only requirement of the author's is that nobody make any money from printing this article. Please pass word along widely, free of charge! Feel free also to pass this on to journalists, asking them to do a report of their own, though they are welcome to use any facts from this report as their own (no need to quote me. This is about public service, not about names). Thank you! 


Dear friends:

I am responding to a comment posted to a diary expressing the generally-felt sense of futility: Anything we do to help the environment will have such a small impact that it can't really help.

True? Yes, most of us feel that way.

Is that feeling founded in fact? Not necessarily.

Below are statistics and facts from the Californians Against Waste website: How much water is conserved as we use less paper, as we recycle it, how much energy is saved just by recycling one single soda can, etc. The statistics are staggering: Check this out!



Conserving Resources

  • Every ton of paper recycled a year saves 17 trees and 7000 gallons of water.
  • Every ton of steel recycled saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone.
  • Recycling one ton of glass saves the equivalent of 10 gallons of oil.

Reducing Pollution

  • According to the U.S. EPA, methane is the second largest source of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, and landfills account for 37% of methane gas output. By reducing and recycling properly organic materials, including paper, we can divert them from landfill, thereby reducing anaerobic decomposition and the production of methane gas.

Energy Savings

  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours.
  • The recycling of one glass container saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours.
  • For every pound of steel recycled, it can save enough energy to light a 60-watt bulb for 24 hours.
  • Every ton of paper recycled can save up to 4200 kilowatt hours of energy.

For more information, see the link above or write to:

Californians Against Waste
921 11th Street, Suite 420
Sacramento, CA 95814
916.443.5422 (phone)
916.443.3912 (fax)

According to a 2004 report of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the following cultural sectors dumped the waste percentages listed below:

Commercial  47%
Residential   31.6%
(Single family residences: 23.4%, multi-family residences: 8.2%)
Self-Hauled: 21.3%
(Commercial self-hauled: 17.3%, residential self-hauled 4%)
Here are the contents which comprise the greatest percentages of garbage which is dumped, California-wide, according to the same California report linked above:

30.2% Organic materials (kitchen scraps 14.9%)

 21% Paper

21.5%  Construction demolition                                     

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This quote summarizes the nature of my concerns and the content of personal experiences which stir my activism: "Necessity is the plea for every infringement on human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves". --Paul (more...)
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