The Benefits of Recycling as an Energy Conservation Measure

Recycling is an effective energy conservation measure that translates into avoided emissions alongside other environmental and economic benefits. It saves energy by decreasing or eliminating energy use during extraction, transportation, and processing of raw materials into finished products.

How Recycling Saves Energy

Manufacturing is a labor, waste, and energy-intensive process that is never-ending due to the increasing demand for consumer products. Manufacturing products from scratch requires raw materials to be extracted, transported, and refined. However, when recycling, you are using already refined materials that need less energy to be transformed into usable products.

Recycling also saves time, money, natural resources, conserves the environment, and shrinks landfills. Hence, the more we recycle, the more we save and gain. Because of these benefits, it is essential to sign up for a residential recycling collection service to have your recyclable trash going to the right place.

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The amount of energy saved through recycling generally depends on the material being reprocessed. Let’s take a look at the energy savings of four of the most commonly recycled materials.

1. Aluminum

Aluminum manufacturing requires huge amounts of heat and electricity. Despite constant efforts to reduce energy consumption, manufacturing aluminum still costs three times more than the theoretical minimum energy requirement.

Recycling aluminum cans and scrapes requires 6 percent of the energy needed to manufacture aluminum from bauxite ore. Repurposing aluminum saves the energy that would have been used to extract, transport, crush, and combine bauxite with caustic soda. Additionally, extracting aluminum from bauxite requires the ore to be purified and smelted.

Thus, the aluminum recycling process is fast, efficient, and achieves up to 94 percent energy savings. Even better, you can recycle aluminum infinite times without degrading, increasing energy saving in the long run. Besides, introducing new alloys and improved product design along the product chain results in more energy and environmental savings.

2. Glass

Glassmaking is an energy-intensive process that involves melting sand and other minerals at extremely high temperatures. Reprocessing glass still needs lots of energy to melt the glass and make a new product. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says reprocessing glass results in 30% energy savings. Glass, like aluminum, does not degrade when it is recycled.

Thus, tossing glass in recycling bins will help preserve natural resources, like sand and soda ash, and reduce the energy costs involved with transporting these heavy materials. It also allows glass manufacturers to cut on energy input to their furnaces. The cumulative energy costs decrease by 2 to 3 percent for every 10 percent of broken glass used in the production process.

Moreover, the durability of glass allows for recycling without reprocessing. This means that you can save 100% energy by cleaning and reusing glass around your home and eliminate the need for an energy-intensive manufacturing process.

3. Paper

An average American household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper every year. These translate into almost 1 billion trees worth of paper being thrown away yearly in the U.S. You can recycle all or most of this paper and contribute to 40% energy savings. Recycled paper can be used to make a variety of new paper products.

paper-recycling

However, this is limited by its appearance, which is not as white or smooth as new paper. Fortunately, biodegradable inks and erasable paper promise improved paper recycling efficiency. You could also reduce your paper usage or reuse paper around your home whenever possible to conserve energy and save trees.

4. Plastic

Many plastic products are single-use commodities that are only in use for a few minutes. However, these require hundreds of years to biodegrade. Sadly, approximately 4 percent of America’s total energy consumption goes to producing plastic products.

Recycling plastic requires only about 10% of the energy needed to manufacture one pound of plastic from virgin sources. The recovery process has short-term energy-saving benefits because plastics degrade every time they are recycled.

plastic waste

However, many manufactures have ways of repurposing low-grade plastics to use in less demanding applications, such as carpeting, park benches, auto parts, and insulation.

Other Materials to Recycle Around Your Home

You can recycle many other materials around your home, and you can determine their energy savings using the iWARM tool created by the EPA. Some of these materials include

You can also contribute to energy conservation by purchasing recycled household products. Some of the most common include

  • Egg cartons
  • Newspapers
  • Comic books
  • Trash bags
  • Paper towels
  • Glass containers
  • Car bumpers

Bottom Line

Reduce, reuse, recycle is a lifestyle that leads us to a greener planet. Following these guidelines for a greener planet will also save you some coins because most recycled products cost significantly less than products produced using virgin material. Keep in mind that 75 percent of all waste can be recycled, and doing this will save the planet loads of energy.

How Companies Can Streamline Energy Consumption

Recent projections show that the world’s energy demands are about to increase by close to 25% between now and 2030. Population and wealth growth are the leading factors behind the increased need for energy. Additionally, issues related to pollution and climate change are compelling companies and investors alike with respect to how they produce and use energy.

energy-company

Grs a global resource solutions company offers a plethora of services that could help industries reshape and streamline their energy consumption.

Energy efficiency is playing a vital role in helping the world achieve its power needs and progress.

Increase in Fuel Prices

The prices of energy have kept rising over the years even when oil prices have dropped as was the case in 2014-2015. Such sudden fluctuations can be difficult for businesses to deal with. Also, declines in energy prices have called into question whether the efforts in energy conservation and efficiency are worth it.

According to various financial analyses, energy costs form a considerable chunk of operating expenses. Worldwide, cement, chemical, mining and metal companies, for instance, spend almost 30% of their operating budget on energy. Additionally, the percent of the budget spent on energy is higher in developing nations due to the cheap cost of labor.

Energy Efficiency

Statistics and research show that operational upgrades can cut energy consumption by approximately 20%. Nonetheless, investment in energy efficiency technologies can reduce energy usage by even 50%.

The reports and findings show that it is not a pipe dream for manufacturing entities, which account for almost half of the world’s energy usage, to meet energy requirements in a way that is environmentally friendly and economical as well. Advanced technology could substantially reduce energy usage and save companies more than six hundred billion dollars per year.

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There are technologies currently in place that can help companies reduce energy consumption. The ideas cover a range of manufacturing and production companies like cement, mining, oil refining and chemicals. Nonetheless, firms are facing the challenge of how to put energy efficiency technology in place how to renew the technology so that it stays relevant year in and year out.

1. Think Circular

Consider your product to be a future source that can be used many times. In other words, when developing a product, strive to move away from the traditional linear supply chain. Take, for example, a data services provider. Put in place the think circular standard by using an analytics system to develop a facility that restructures energy to its core function. This results in more capacity and less operational expenses.

Circular-Economy

2. Profit Per Hour

Whenever making any changes, remember to create a comprehensive review of the full profit equation. During the study, evaluate aspects such as yield, throughput and energy. Nonetheless, profit should be of the highest priority before effecting any changes.

3. Think Lean

It is vital for an organization to create a resource productivity plan. Lean thinking and green thinking are based on similar principles and will blend in together well.

4. Think Holistic

When making changes, ensure that they not only focus on a specific aspect. Instead, you should also focus on the management system, behavior and mindsets.

Product Life-Cycle Assessment: Closing the Loop

If you’re interested in green and environmental issues you may have heard the phrase ‘life-cycle assessment’ in relation to a particular product. It can be difficult to ascertain exactly what this life-cycle assessment involves – so we’re hoping to shed some light on the process, the different types of assessment that take place and explain what’s involved with each step.

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A look at the bigger picture

Essentially, a product life-cycle assessment takes an overall view of that item’s impact on the environment – and in doing so, offers a true picture of how green that product really is. The aim is for consumers, manufacturers and policy makers to be given a true environmental picture of any product.

Although it’s an example that divides the opinion of environmentalists around the world, the Toyota Prius provides an interesting picture of why the product life-cycle assessment is required in a world driven by a company’s desire to be seen as green. The Prius is an electric-hybrid car which Toyota claims delivers an impressive 60 miles per gallon of fuel – a statistic that puts it as a firm environmental favourite.

However, there are claims that the construction methods used to create the batteries that power the Prius are hugely detrimental to the environment – with some sources saying the manufacturing plant impacts the environment so greatly that by the time a Prius is driven from the showroom – it’s already had the environmental impact it would take any other car 1,000 gallons of fuel to match.

What’s the verdict?

So, is the Prius good or bad? That’s not for us to decide – and we’re not suggesting one way or another, we’re simply using this as an illustration of how complex any environmental consideration can be in a product with such an intensive manufacturing process and prolonged lifespan. At the other end of the calculation you’d have to consider how long the Prius will run for – and whether that balances a supposedly negative building method.

Ingredients of product life-cycle assessment

The assessment is ordinarily broken down into different stages:

Extraction and processing of raw materials

This is a full understanding of the journey from source to point of manufacture that the building blocks of any product take. For example, in the manufacture of a table you would begin by looking at the trees that provide the wood, the logging process that takes them from forest to timber yard and the impact of the machinery used throughout that process.

You would repeat this process for every raw material that goes into the table’s manufacture.

Manufacturing

Next comes the manufacturing itself – if machinery or any industrial process is used to piece our table together then resources used in that process must be considered when we look at the overall impact of the product on the environment.

Packaging

The packaging that a product is delivered in is effectively another product in itself. Although unlikely in our table example, it’s not uncommon for extravagant packaging to represent 10-20% of a product’s recommended retail price. Curtis Packaging, an award-winning UK based sustainable packaging company suggest manufacturers pay careful consideration to the impact of packaging on a product’s overall green credentials – from raw materials to the point of disposal, the packing that adorns your product can have serious environmental considerations.

Marketing

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking marketing a product comes with no environmental impact – but you’d be wrong. From the printing of advertising materials – to the sales team’s 20,000 annual miles in company vehicles – there can be a lot of resource put into any marketing process. However, measurement is no mean feat – companies can find it difficult to differentiate between their overall carbon footprint and that associated with any one product.

Product use, re-use and maintenance

This is where the impact of a product moves from the manufacturer and into the hands of the consumer. What does typical use look like? How long is a product being used for? Does one person’s use vary compared to another’s? For our example table, the answers could be fairly simple – on the other hand, there’s a huge amount of variation when you look at a broad range of car drivers.

Packaging that adorns your product can have serious environmental impact.

Packaging that adorns your product can have serious environmental impact.

For any product that requires maintenance, the LCA just became much more complex (again!) – just as packaging represented an entirely separate product that requires its own assessment – a similar process is required when a car receives a tank of fuel, a top up of coolant, brake fluid, spark plugs, brake pads… hopefully you get the picture (hint – it’s complex and sprawling!)

However difficult it might be to anticipate, it’s an environmental imperative that big industry is aware of the impact they have – even when their product has left their hands.

Recycling, disposal and waste at the end of the product’s life

From pizza boxes to old cars, it’s easy to think of their job as being done when they’re waved off to a recycling bin or breaker’s yard – but environmentally this could just be the beginning of their impact.

In terms of recycling – the effort and impact of the process must be outweighed by the benefit of the salvaged material, it’s often in life-cycle assessments that decisions are made around what is worth recycling – and what should be destined for landfill. If landfill is the ultimate resting place for any product, what does the deterioration process look like and what does that mean to the environment in the short, medium and long-term?

Then, to bring the assessment cycle full circle – any product that can be processed and re-used re-enters the assessment cycle back at the extraction and processing of raw materials stage…

Ultimately, what is the life-cycle assessment done for?

There’s no one reason that a life-cycle assessment is done. For some companies, they’re keen to explain the full back-story of the product. For others, it can be an exercise in understanding the full process and highlighting any areas that can be financially streamlined – it certainly provides a solid baseline from which improvements can be made.

For the most environmentally ethical companies, the life-cycle assessment gives a true picture of the impact they have on the well-being of the planet – and offers a chance to get a full and honest picture of the moves they and their partners can make in creating a product that fulfils the requirements of the environment – as well as those of the customer and shareholders.