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[greenyes] RE: Env Benefits of Recycling
But if we're talking about a system where glass is all disposed all the time
versus a system with an 80% glass recycling rate, then the difference in
energy and environmental benefits of a glass container over its life cycle
is indeed five times greater than the benefits from just recycling that
glass container (or a ton of cullet) once.  That's what I understood the
debate to be about on This American Life - whether glass recycling is worth
it.  The difference in life cycle energy and environmental benefits between
the dispose-all-glass-all-the-time waste management system and the
recycle-glass-at-80% waste management system is 5 times greater then the
numbers that were discussed on This American Life, because those were the
benefits from recycling a glass container or a ton of cullet just once.  The
disposal-all-glass-all-the-time system throws away 5 times as much in energy
and environmental benefits versus the 80% recycling system.



-----Original Message-----
From: Reindl, John [mailto:Reindl@no.address]
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2003 3:12 PM
To: greenyes@no.address
Subject: Env Benefits of Recycling


While I hate to do it, I must disagree with the analysis below that the
recycling of a product at an 80% rate means multiplying the benefits of
recycling the bottle each individual time by 5.

The problem is not the math formula, with which I agree. A product that is
recycled at an 80% rate would indeed have an average use/reuse rate of 5
times before it is discarded. And in deposit states where 95% of the
aluminum beverage cans are returned, the rate for aluminum cans is 20 times.


But the environment benefits don't get multiplied by 5; the benefits only
occur once each time the material is recycled. (Mathematically, the benefits
that sum to 5 would need to be divided by the number of uses, which is also
5.)

And to the best of my knowledge, the energy and pollution prevention
benefits of recycling cullet from a glass bottle that is 100% virgin
material is exactly the same as the benefits of recycling cullet from a
bottle that has recycled content in it.

Glass is a marvelous product, but I don't believe that to give it (or
aluminum cans or newspapers or plastic bottles, etc) a multiplier effect
based on the recycling rate is mathematically correct.

John Reindl, Recycling Manager
Dane County, WI

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jeffrey Morris [mailto:jeff.morris@no.address]
> Sent: Monday, November 03, 2003 9:28 PM
> To: Susan Hubbard; web@no.address; greenyes@no.address;
> radio@no.address;
> kagosta@no.address
> Subject: [greenyes] RE: This American Life
>
>
> Susan and all,
>
> One factor that almost always gets overlooked about recycling glass
> containers back into glass containers is the infinite stream of benefits
> that a glass recycling system creates.  I'm indebted to Steve Apotheker at
> Portland Metro for first asking me this question.
>
> Here's the real deal.  In a container deposit state suppose 80% of glass
> containers get recycled back into new recycled-content glass containers
> during a year.  That means that in the next year 80% of those 80%
> recycled-content containers get recycled back into new recycled-content
> glass containers.  And so on.  Those of you that dabble in mathematics or
> statistics will realize that this infinite series of recycling means that
> 1/(1-.8) -1 = 4 recycled-content containers get manufactured from each
> container originally sold if 80% of them are returned in the deposit
state.
> (You can use any percentage you want in this formula, so it can be applied
> to a non-deposit state or city or county as well.)  That means that those
> energy savings and pollution prevention formulae for a ton of recycled
glass
> need to be multiplied by 5, which makes glass recycling much heftier in
> terms of environmental benefits from energy savings and pollution
prevention
> than those numbers discussed on This American Life.
>
> Conclusion: Glass has substantial benefits because each glass bottle that
is
> recycled spawns an infinite stream of additional recycling and
consequently
> an infinite stream of avoided energy consumption and avoided environmental
> damage that would otherwise occur from using virgin materials and energy
> sources to make virgin-content glass containers to replace those glass
> containers that are disposed in the landfill or incinerator.
> Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D.
> Economist
> Sound Resource Management - Durham
> 3206A Myra Street
> Durham, NC 27707
>
> WA: 360-319-2391
> NC: 919-403-1406
> jeff.morris@no.address
> www.zerowaste.com





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