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The little "whys" for Recycling: To divert the amount of waste going to landfills, to prevent pollution, to reduce greenhouse emissions and global climate change, to conserve resources, to save energy used for refining raw materials, and to help Earlham and the Richmond community benefit financially from the industry of recycling.

The BIG "why" for Recycling - To love life enough to save it, as per the following quote.

  We need to transform the way we use the earth's endowment of land,
  minerals, water, air, wildlife, and fuels:  an efficiency revolution which 
  buys us some time.  Beyond efficiency, we need another revolution that 
  transforms our ideas of what it means to live decently and how little is 
  actually necessary for a decent life:  a sufficiency revolution... The  
  first revolution is mostly about technology and economics.  The second 
  revoloution is about morality and human purpose.  The biophilia revolution 
  is about the combination of reverence for life and purely rational 
  calculation by which we will want to be both efficient and live 
  sufficiently.  It is about finding our rightful place on earth and in the 
  community of life; it is about citizenship, duties, obligations, and   
  celebration... 1


Every day, an average American produces and throws away about 4 or 5 pounds of waste. In a city like Richmond, this means over 200,000 pounds (100 tons) of waste must be disposed of every day. Richmond's waste is currently being buried in the New Paris Pike Landfill, but this facility will not last forever. To locate and construct a new landfill will take considerable time and money, but the life of the current one can be extended by recycling a larger portion of municipal solid waste. (Richmond Sanitation Dept. flier) Recycling also lessens environmental impacts of waste in landfills, such as land, water and air pollution, by reducing the amounts of waste being sent there.


By decreasing the need to extract and process new raw materials from the earth, recycling can eliminate the pollution associated with the initial stages of a product’s development: material extraction, refining and processing. These activities pollute the air, land and water with toxic materials, such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, methane, and sulfur dioxides.


By reducing the amount of energy used by industry, recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps prevent global climate change. This is because much of the energy used in industrial processes and in transportation involves burning fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel and coal, which are the most largest sources of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions into the environment. Additional benefits are derived from reduced emissions from incinerators and landfills.


Recycling is also an important strategy for reducing the environmental impacts of industrial production. Supplying industry with recycled materials, rather than virgin resources extracted from forests and mines, is environmentally preferable because it saves energy, reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and other dangerous air and water pollutants, and because it conserves scarce natural resources. Recycling programs supply industry with scrap commodities such as metals, paper, glass, plastics, wood, organics, and other materials.”

Recycled materials often produce better products than those produced from virgin materials. The tin in “tin” cans, for example, is more refined (thus more valuable) after being processed for recycling.

Source reduction, preventing waste before it is generated, can further reduce the need for disposal and save more resources


Energy savings are a very important environmental benefit of recycling because using energy requires the consumption of scarce fossil fuels and emissions of numerous air and water pollutants. The steps in supplying recycled materials to industry (including collection, processing and transportation) typically use less energy than the steps in supplying virgin materials to industry (including extraction, refining, transportation and processing).” “Additional energy savings associated with recycling accrue in the manufacturing process itself, since the materials have already undergone processing.


Recycling is a growth industry with many kinds of business opportunities, from collection and processing to manufacturing to inventing new technologies.

Reuse and remanufacturing focus on the refurbishing and repair of products to be reused in their original form. The largest activities are retail sales of used merchandise and reuse of used motor vehicle parts. The amount of value that can be added via this process is limited because of competition from new products. Nevertheless, reuse and manufacturing contributes jobs and sales.

In addition to the direct benefits of recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing, support businesses that provide goods and services to the recycling and reuse industry also contribute to the health of the economy. These supporting businesses include recycling and reuse equipment manufacturers, consulting/engineering services, brokers, and transporters. (

Recycling also benefits Earlham and the city of Richmond financially. Earlham is charged for the trash it sends to the landfill, so not having as much trash to haul saves the College money. Also, Earlham is monetarily compensated for its bales of recycled corrugated cardboard; and, the city is compensated for recycled bales of plastic and for loads of glass, aluminum and other metals that are recycled by the Richmond Sanitary Department.


Paper and paperboard products include items you use every day—newspapers, food packaging, tissues, cardboard boxes, office paper, and paper plates. In fact, at about 38.1 percent, paper and paperboard products constitute the largest portion of municipal solid waste (MSW). As the greatest portion of the waste stream, paper also offers the greatest opportunity for recycling. Today, consumers buy recycled paper in newspapers, food packages, and office paper—some containing as much as 100 percent recycled fiber. Other uses of recovered paper include insulation, gypsum wallboard, fertilizer bags, and mulch.

About 45 percent of all paper and paperboard products in MSW were recovered in 2001, nearly two-and-a-half times the percentage recovered in 1960.

Recycling rates (2001):

Corrugated Boxes: 73 percent Newspapers: 60 percent Office Paper: 55 percent Magazines: 32 percent Telephone Directories: 15 percent Recovery of corrugated cardboard leads paper’s overall recycling rate. It is so profitable to recycle that 73 percent of corrugated cardboard discards are recovered each year in the United States. Old newspapers are also widely recycled.

Every ton of recycled paper:

— Conserves the equivalent of 17 trees worth of lumber — Saves 7,000 gallons of water — Cuts pollution 95 percent — Saves 11 barrels – 462 gallons – of oil — Saves more than three cubic yards of landfill space.

Paper recycling conserves trees, water, oil, and landfill space and prevents air pollution associated with the production of virgin paper. It also cuts energy usage in half.

Recycled paper cannot completely replace paper made from new wood pulp, but decreasing the rate at which trees are consumed has environmental benefits. Trees help reduce the overabundance of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere by absorbing carbon. The trees within a mature forest also maintain biological diversity, which is not quickly restored once they are removed. Logging can also accelerate soil erosion, which contributes to water pollution.

The quality of paper fibers degrades with repeated recycling, so there is a separate market for recycled white office paper. White office paper is higher quality paper such as copy and writing paper, green-bar and multi-stripe computer printout and white envelopes without plastic windows or labels. It is best for incorporating into new white office paper products. Less than 20 percent of office wastepaper generated in the United States is recovered

Mixed paper and paperboard, such as cereal, cake mix, and macaroni boxes and gift boxes, are not presently recyclable in Richmond, Indiana. However, in other areas of the country they are often recycled into new packaging products, as well as paper towel and tissues, construction paper, cellulose insulation and bedding for farm animals.


In 2001, the United States generated nearly 2 million tons of aluminum as containers and packaging, and manufacturers used approximately 1.2 million tons of aluminum to make durable and nondurable goods.

The total amount of aluminum in the municipal solid waste stream represented 1.4 percent of total MSW generation in 2001.

The largest source of aluminum in the MSW stream is aluminum used beverage containers (UBCs) and other packaging containers.

Manufacturers make 99 percent of all beer cans and 97 percent of all soft drink cans from aluminum. Aluminum beer and soft drink containers were recovered at a rate of 49 percent of generation in 2001, and 40 percent of all aluminum in containers and packaging was recovered for recycling in 2001.

The average aluminum can contains 40 percent postconsumer recycled aluminum. Recovering aluminum for recycling saves money and dramatically reduces energy consumption. The aluminum can recycling process saves 95 percent of the energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite ore, as well as natural resources, according to the Aluminum Association. Making a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore, or bauxite, uses 229 BTUs of energy. In contrast, producing cans from recycled aluminum uses only 8 BTUs of energy per can. ( Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough electricity to light a 100 watt bulb for 3 ½ hours. (

An aluminum can that is recovered for recycling is back in the consumer stream in a short period of time. It takes about 6 weeks total to manufacture, fill, sell, recycle, and then remanufacture a beverage can. Most of the aluminum recovered from the waste stream is used to manufacture new cans.


About 22 percent of glass in the municipal solid waste stream, was recovered in 2001 for recycling, though its recovery is on the increase.

Soft drink, beer, food, wine, and liquor containers represent the largest source of glass generated and recovered for recycling.

Today, most glass manufacturers rely on a steady supply of recycled crushed glass, known as "cullet," to supplement raw materials. Using cullet saves money and helps the environment, because:

Cullet costs less than raw materials.

Cullet prolongs furnace life since it melts at a lower temperature.

Cullet demands less energy from power sources like electricity, natural gas, and coal. ( Recycling a ton of glass saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil. ( Less energy used means reduced emissions of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide, both greenhouse gases.


The total amount of plastics in Municipal Solid Waste in the United States represented 11.1 percent of total waste in 2001.

Plastics are a rapidly growing segment of the municipal solid waste stream (; but, presently only #1 and #2 plastics are recyclable in Richmond, Indiana.

To facilitate recycling efforts, plastics are classified into seven categories:

1 – Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE)- The most common sources to recycle are 2-liter soda bottles and water bottles. (

2 – High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)- This is the most common plastic used in plastic bottle manufacture, about 50-60%. Examples include milk and detergent jugs, shampoo and lotion bottles. (

3 – Vinyl (Polyvinyl Chloride) (PVC)- Vinyl is often used as immitation leather on items such as purses and furniture, it is also a common ingredient found in toys, swimming pool liners, shower curtains, vinyl siding, etc. (

4 – Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)- Film plastics and plastic grocery bags are common sources of this type of plastic. (

5 – Polypropylene (PP)- A large proportion of polypropylene is used in fiber constituents of fabrics, upholstery and carpets. Industrial uses include ropes, woven and non-woven fabrics and reinforcements. It is also used in the manufacture of bottles, appliance housings, car components, toys and furniture. (

6 – Polystyrene (PS)- Disposable food service tableware, plates and cups are examples of this category, often mistakenly referred to as "Styrofoam." It is also used as packing peanuts. (

7 – Other - All other plastic resins and multi-material plastics make up this category. (

The most commonly recycled plastics are those which comprise containers and packaging, such as soft drink bottles, lids, and shampoo bottles. Others, which are generally not recyclable are often used as components of appliances, furniture, disposable diapers, trash bags, cups and utensils, and medical devices. While overall recovery of plastics for recycling is relatively small, at slightly over 5%, recovery of plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, milk, and water bottles has reached higher levels.


Steel plays a major part in everyday life—it is used in applications ranging from food cans and household containers to automobiles and office buildings. Steel makes up the largest category of metals in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream.

The total amount of ferrous waste material (iron and steel) generated in 2001 represented 5.9 percent of total municipal solid waste generation, though the percentage has been declining.

In 2000, the steel industry recovered and recycled 95 percent of shredded steel scrap from automobiles, according to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI).

The steel industry in North America has been recycling steel scrap for more than 150 years. The steel industry needs scrap to produce new steel, which ensures that all steel products contain anywhere from 25 percent up to 100 percent recycled content. It also is cheaper to recycle steel than it is to mine virgin ore to manufacture new steel, though it is still mined in order to supplement production of steel and steel products.

Recovering steel not only saves money, but also dramatically reduces energy consumption, compared to making steel from virgin materials. ( By recycling over 1 million tons of steel, 1.3 million tons of iron ore, 718,000 tons of coal, and 62,000 tons of limestone are saved. Every pound of steel recycled saves 5,450 BTUs of energy, enough to light a 60 watt bulb for over 26 hours. ( In turn, this reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released in to the air during processing and manufacturing steel from virgin ore.


All batteries have two common elements that combine to make power: an electrolyte and a heavy metal.

Recycling batteries thus keeps heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, from contaminating landfills and the air. Recycling saves resources because recovered plastic and metals can be used to make new batteries. When incinerated, certain metals could be released into the air or concentrated in the ash produced by the combustion process.

One way to reduce the number of batteries in the waste stream is to purchase rechargeable batteries. Nearly one in five dry-cell batteries purchased in the United States is rechargeable. Over its useful life, each rechargeable battery may substitute for hundreds of single-use batteries.

The variety of battery types includes: Lead-Acid Automobile Batteries, Non-Automotive Lead-Based Batteries, Gel cells and sealed lead-acid batteries, Wet-cell batteries, Dry-Cell Batteries, Alkaline and Zinc-Carbon Batteries, Button-Cell Batteries, and Rechargeable Batteries.

Nearly 90 percent of all lead-acid batteries are recycled. Almost any retailer that sells lead-acid batteries collects used batteries for recycling, as required by most state laws. A typical lead-acid battery contains 60 to 80 percent recycled lead and plastic.

Dry-cell batteries are among the most common and include alkaline and carbon zinc (9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA), mercuric-oxide (button, some cylindrical and rectangular), silver-oxide and zinc-air (button), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button). On average, each person in the United States discards eight dry-cell batteries per year. (


Throwing away leaves, grass clippings, and yard waste can add greatly to disposal costs and quantities. Composting these materials can reduce the landfill space that would otherwise be needed for them, and the need to purchase fertilizers, mulches, and soil conditioners. (

1. Michael E. Soule, "Biophilia: Unanswered Questions," in The Biophilia Hypothesis, eds. Stephen Kellert and Edward O. Wilson (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1993), 430.


Solid Waste District of LaPorte County <>

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection <Nancy, that url didn't work>

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Facilities Services, [Plastics Recycling] <>

The Science Center: Polyvinyl Chloride <>