Wednesday, August 29, 2012

More About the Environmental R's - Recycle

Couldn't bring you this post without some serious data first, and now here it is!!!

I decided to see just where we were in our own home with what we put out every week with trash, recyclables, and compost.  This past week was just an average week, so I'm using it as a baseline.  Let me share this information with you, and then we can play with some numbers.

  • Trash - 11.7 pounds
  • Recycling - 10.6 pounds
  • Compost - 7 pounds
Last week I shared with you a whole lot of numbers related to my home town.  Let's use those numbers again with the numbers above.  I told you we'd keep 528,008 pounds of food waste out of the landfill if every household would compost just one pound of that food waste a week for a year.  When you bump that number up to our 7 pounds, it becomes mind-boggling.  Now, hopefully, you've had your coffee this morning, and you are sitting down.  Try this on for size:  3,696,056.  And that's pounds my friends.  Remember our cute little garbage truck?  Those hold 22,000 pounds of trash. That 3 million-ish pounds of food waste that has been composted now takes 168 of those trucks off the road a year.  At 8,600 gallons of fuel per year per truck, we'd also save 1,444,800 of fuel.  Not bad for a town of roughly 30,000 people!

Now, our town is notorious for not recycling, even though we have a great curbside service offered to us.  If all of us recycled 10 pounds/week, we'd recycle 5,280,080 pounds a year.  These are materials that can be reused in some way.  And each pound really adds up.  For example, 1 ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees.  Our little town could EASILY do a ton a week.  Easy peasy.  And here's why.  We have about 10,000 households.  Multiply that by 1 pound a week and you get 10,000 pounds.  That's 5 tons.  That's 85 trees.  A week.  And that's 4,420 trees a year!

And that's just our little town...

So I want to remind you about the other half of recycling, which is buying products made from recycled materials.  When you read the labels on products for ingredients, start checking for post-consumer content in the packaging as well.  Glass bottles always have a very high post-consumer content.  Buy products in glass bottles when you can.  Reuse those containers when possible, and recycle the rest.  Fortunately, newsprint and cereal boxes generally contain at least some recycled content.  The boxes in my pantry all say 35% post-consumer content.  Which is a good start.  And did you know that aluminum cans have about 50% post-consumer content? Every can that's recycled saves enough energy to run your TV for 4 hours.  And using recycled aluminum reduces the amount of raw materials needed for production by 95% and energy needed for production by 90%.  

I told you - the numbers are all mind-boggling...

This makes a great math and science project for the kiddos.  Have them start tracking the amounts in your home.  By tracking the numbers for a month (or longer if they are interested), they can learn about data collection and trends, gross, net and tare weight measurements, and more.  They can learn to break the data into more or less sets to suit their interests.  Maybe do it with a group of friends and have a contest.

Week #2 data starts for us today.  We'll see where we are again next week.  Hopefully you'll join us, and have fun!

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