In 2001, 285 million Americans failed to recycle some 51 billion cans—enough to encircle the Earth 153 times if laid end-to-end. That same year, 451 million residents of 18 European nations wasted only 8.9 billion cans.
Making 1 million tons of aluminium cans from virgin materials requires 5 million tons of bauxite ore and the energy equivalent of 32 million barrels of crude oil. Recycling the cans, in comparison, saves all of the bauxite and more than 75 percent of the energy, and avoids about 75 percent of the pollution.
Recycling just one aluminium can saves enough electricity to run a laptop computer for 4 hours.
Making 1 million tons of plastic bottles from virgin materials (petroleum and other fossil fuels) generates an estimated 732,000 tons of climate-altering greenhouse gases.
Plastic bottles made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate) can be recycled into many products, including beverage bottles, plastic strapping, fleece jackets, sleeping bags, and carpets. Yet in 2002, less than a fifth of all plastic beverage bottles in the U.S. was recycled.
Recycling glass yields a 10 percent energy savings and preserves the life of the glass furnace
What can we do?
- we suggest that schools should support the cash for containers campaign, were you and your school can help to lobby governments to implement a 10 cents a container refund similar to South Australia. Studies have shown that this method dramatically reduces waste in the environment.
- Schools can now order recycling bins from local councils that are the same as the residential system. This makes it easier for education as the school system is the same as the home system. Council bins cost about $65 per year per bin with fortnightly pick ups. Gosford council schools should contact Trudy Hurley on Tel: 02 4325 8817 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- aluminium cans can still be collected for money. They can be stored and then taken to a scrap metal recycler for a cash return (55 cents a kilo at Aug 09). For more information contact McAlisters Metal Recyclers Wyong on Tel: 02 4351 1005.
- if your school is unable to maintain an effective recycling method consider hiring the bins for special events such as World Environment Day, sports carnivals or collect aluminium cans as a fundraising activity for the school.
- conduct a waste audit within the school to help identify and provide examples of materials that can be recycled. Contact Rumbalara or Michelle Norman on Tel: 02 4336 3121.
- provide small recycling bins in each classroom, office and staff room. Ensure that the recycling bins are a different colour to the waste bins and attach a label clearly identifying acceptable recyclable items. (Yellow for recyclables, blue for paper, red for mixed waste).
- once every month teachers could run a brief reminder session to reinforce the importance of only putting recyclable material into the recycling bins.
- introduce "Waste Hawks" (or similar), were Waste Hawks will take on the role of waste monitors. Each class should nominate on a weekly basis a waste monitor who could receive a badge identifying him/her as the Waste Hawk. The responsibility of Waste Hawks could be to monitor playground during lunch and recess and remind students to place rubbish into the bin if they are observed littering.