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22 Interesting Facts About . . .

Recycling

  1. Used condoms were recycled into hair bands in Southern China. They sold quite well, although several physicians voiced concerns about potential hygiene problems.d
  2. It is more likely that Americans will recycle than vote.e
  3. In the U.S. alone, 18 billion diapers are thrown out a year.h
  4. Burying coffins also means that 90,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, and over 30 million feet of hard wood covered in toxic laminates are also buried per year. However, a British company called “Ecopod” offers coffins made from 100% recycled paper.b
  5. The United States makes up only 4% of the world’s population, yet it is the number one producer of garbage. In 2006, Americans generated more than 250 million tons of garbage.g Canada produces 31 million tons of garbage per year.
  6. Modern garbage is a relatively new phenomenon--a result of industrialization, mass production, and consumption.e
  7. Before the twentieth century, most Americans and Europeans practiced habits of reuse and recycling that prevailed in agricultural communities. For example, in the Middle Ages, tanners would often collect urine to use in tanning animal skins or making gunpowder.e
  8. bones
    Bones were often recycled into common household items such as buttons, glue, and paper
  9. Bones were one of the most recycled items before the twentieth century. Bones were often used for making buttons and gelatin, which was used in food processing, photography, and glue and paper making.g
  10. In the late 1800s, peddlers acted as early recyclers. They would carry sacks of reusable items in their wagons to sell to general stores.e
  11. As fewer people created their own goods after the Industrial Revolution, expert knowledge of handiwork skills and materials became obsolete. Leftovers and scraps that were once considered valuable and reusable now became trash. The first organized incineration of trash began in England in 1874.g
  12. In addition to mass-burn incinerators, which could burn up to 800 tons of garbage per day, a process called “reduction” became popular throughout the United States and Europe in the early twentieth century. Reduction involved mixing wet garbage and animal remains to create a greasy substance that was used in soaps, candles, and perfume.g
  13. Plastic bags are easier to recycle and require less energy to produce than paper bags.h
  14. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours.h
  15. The economic downturn in 2008 was devastating for the recycling industry. Cardboard that sold for $135 a ton in September now sells for $35 a ton, and plastic bottles fell from 25 cents a pound to 2 cents a pound. What once was a multi-million dollar revenue is now turning into a liability for many cities.a Many industries and manufacturers’ demand for scrap, paper and other recyclables, dropped as consumer demand for new cars, houses, and appliances also dropped.
  16. In 1971, Oregon became the first state to pass a bottle bill designed to increase recycling and decrease litter by giving consumers a financial incentive to recycle. Under the bottle bill law, consumers can receive money for recycling soft drink and beer containers rather than throwing them out.e
  17. Batteries that were made before 1997—when Congress mandated that mercury be phased out of batteries—should be recycled rather than thrown away. Older batteries can contain up to ten times more mercury than newer batteries. Rechargeable batteries can also contain heavily toxic materials and should be recycled or properly disposed of.h
  18. Landfill
    As landfills continue to reach their capacities, recycling has become an attractive alternative
  19. All recycling creates some amount of residue (e.g., shredder fluff) that will eventually end up in a landfill.e
  20. Each year, Americans throw out enough soda pop cans bottles to reach to the moon and back—twenty times.h
  21. Nearly 50 million tons of e-waste (electronic waste such as cell phones and computers) is created each year around the world. This is enough to fill a line of garbage trucks across half the globe.f
  22. Over 70% of e-waste ends up in China, where much of it is recycled in family-run workshops. Their methods of recycling are often rudimentary and can create serious environmental contaminants and health risks.f
  23. It is common to hear that the Fresh Kill Landfill in New York and the Great Wall of China are the only two man-made objects that can be seen from space.e However, many astronauts have stated they could not see them, at least not with the unaided eye.c
  24. Cigarette butts and filters take 12 years to biodegrade. An aluminum can takes between 200 to 500 years to biodegrade. Plastic diapers and sanitary pads take between 500-800 years. Styrofoam takes more than 5,000 years. And it would take a glass bottle 1 million years to biodegrade.h

-- Posted December 21, 2008. Updated March 28, 2009.

References

a Dickersheid, P.J. “Recycling Goes from Boom to Bust as Economy Stalls.” SFGate.com. December 7, 2008. Accessed December 12, 2008.

b Ecopod.Co.uk. Accessed: December 16, 2008.

c NASA.gov. “China’s Wall Less Great in Space.“ May,9 2005. Accessed: March 28, 2009.

d NewsCom.au. “Used Condoms Winding Up in People’s Hair.” November 13, 2007.

e Rogers, Heather. 2005. Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. New York, NY: The New Press.

f ScienceDaily.com. “Elevated Concentrations of Toxic Metals in China’s E-waste Recycling.” April 1, 2008. Accessed: December 10, 2008.

g Strasser, Susan. 1999. Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

h Zimrig, Carl A. 2005. Cash for Your Trash. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.