March 20, 2008
By now, if you have been following GWAC’s Home Energy Efficiency Series over the last several months, you have been presented with detailed information on reducing your household’s carbon emissions through investments in insulating your home and sealing air leaks, the installation of solar photovoltaic (pv) panels, solar hot water systems, and even wind power systems.
So what else can you do to reduce your household’s carbon emissions footprint you might ask? Think recycling for starters. And this doesn’t require any financial investment, simply a change in behavior. On April 1 at 7 pm in the Cary Library Meeting Room, Lexington GWAC will be hosting a presentation entitled “Reducing Household Waste”. Robert Beaudoin, Lexington’s Superintendent of Environmental Services, will be on hand to lead a discussion on the recycling of household trash and the town’s overall recycling program. Beaudoin will be joined by Frances Gillespie, noted local gardener and composting expert, who will address the issue of disposing of food preparation waste in an ecologically-friendly manner.
Citing figures from the Empowerment Institute’s Low Carbon Diet workbook, if the average American household is responsible for generating 55,000 pounds of carbon emissions annually and does not engage in recycling any of its household’s waste, instituting home recycling practices can reduce this amount by up to 5%. Combine that figure with the carbon emissions savings from other energy savings practices outlined in the Low Carbon Diet, and your household will be well on its way to significantly reducing its carbon footprint. And perhaps the best part about beginning a household recycling program is that it won’t cost you a penny!
Recycling works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in several basic ways. Solid waste landfills are major sources of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. The incineration of solid waste, which is the process used to dispose of Lexington’s solid waste, requires the consumption of fossil fuels to simply get rid of our unwanted stuff, and emits greenhouse gases and other atmospheric pollutants during the process. In contrast, the recycling of many common elements found in our household trash often consumes far less energy than the original manufacturing process requires, and additionally, lessens the need for extracting raw materials from the environment, which is itself an energy intensive process.
An extremely interesting and informative web site maintained by the city of Cambridge in the UK from which the following examples were drawn may be found at http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/ (Click on Rubbish, Waste & Recycling):
Greenhouse gases are only released during the initial melting of raw materials, making glass recycling a far less polluting process in comparison to making new glass.
Recycling aluminum requires only 5% of the energy and produces only 5% of the CO2 emissions compared with the primary production of aluminum from bauxite.
Every ton of steel recycled saves 1.5 tons of iron ore, 0.5 tons of coal, 40% of the water, 75% of the energy, 1.28 tons of solid waste, 86% reduction in emissions, and 76% reduction in water pollution that is required to produce a ton of virgin steel.
1.8 tons of oil is saved for every ton of plastic recycled. It is estimated that 4% of the world’s annual oil production is consumed as raw material in the creation of plastic material with an additional 3-4% consumed as energy in the manufacturing process.
Production of a ton of recycled paper consumes 40% less energy and 30% less water than creating virgin paper.
And before closing, a word about CFL (compact fluorescent light bulb) disposal. CFL’s may be disposed of at any of the Town’s eight annual Hazardous Waste Collection days. Visit the Town web site for dates (http://ci.lexington.ma.us/). The Town is actively working on additional drop-off options with the hope that an announcement may be made at the April 1 presentation. Local merchants presently accepting CFL’s for disposal include Wanamaker’s Hardware in Arlington.
So mark the evening of April 1 now on your calendar to attend this GWAC presentation and learn how your household can become part of how we can all do a better job of recycling the materials in our daily lives.
Brought to you by Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition. Visit our website at www.lexgwac.org.