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Energy savings are an important environmental benefit of recycling. Most energy production involves the consumption of fossil fuels and usually produces emissions of 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, transporting and processing).
Additional energy savings associated with recycling accrue in the manufacturing process itself. It requires less energy to manufacture products from recycled materials than from raw materials. In 2005, recycling of municipal solid waste in America reduced manufacturing energy use by more than 988,489,000 million BTUs, enough energy to power 10,721,139 homes.
Recycling paper cuts energy usage in half. Every pound of steel recycled saves 5,450 BTUs of energy, enough to light a 60-watt bulb for over 26 hours. Recycling a ton of glass saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil. Recycling used aluminum cans requires only about five percent of the energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite. Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for 3 1/2 hours!
What is Indiana up to regarding Energy topics? Visit the Office of Energy and Defense Development. You can learn about everything from coal technology to Biotown!
(Source: Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2005 Facts and Figures, U.S. EPA, 2006).