Recycle and Reuse

Total Gross Waste 1960-200 (Mtonne)
Material 1960 1970 1980 19902000
Paper, paperboard 28 41 48 58 55
Ferrous metals 11 14 16 12 10
Other metals 1 1 2 2 3
Glass 7 14 16 12 11
Plastics 0 3 819 26
Food scraps 13 14 14 23 28
Yard trimmings 222630 34 13
Other waste 81220 31 35
Total 91125151 189 181
Population (M)181205228250282
Tonne/person 0.5 0.61 0.66 0.76 0.64

Message: reduce, reuse, recycle before disposal.

Reduction: Packaging constitutes 30% of waste stream in developed countries. Most paper products, but newspapers, end up in landfills as original packaging. Industry does NOT pay for this disposal.

Could there be a different model? In some countries such as Germany, industry pays the cost of disposal.


Aluminum is used commercially in transportation, packaging and containers, and building products. The production of aluminum from the bauxite ore (aluminum oxide) is very energy intensive so much so that the ore is shipped to areas where electricity is cheap. Because of this 30% is recycled (60% from new scrap and 40% from "old" scrap). Recycled aluminum in used in automobiles, window and doors, appliances and cans.

The cost of refining aluminum is about 300 MJ/kg while the cost from scrap is about 7 MJ/kg. Plus there are savings in transportation and disposal.

Brazil exxample: industry pushing recycling.

Recycling is driven by strong aluminum industry that needs inexpensive raw materials (due to trade balance). Low-wage workforce encouraging collection. Brazil has world's highest aluminum recycling rate.

Aluminum Cost from ore versus scrap

Steps in Production (MJ/kg)Cost Avg
Ore extraction: mine, dry, ship 7
Caribbean bauxite6
SA bauxite9
Production of alumina from ore49
Production of aluminum from alumina electrode Prebaked208-272
electrode Soderberg246-277
cost of ... calcining4-10
Overall energy cost from ore314
Production from scrap
30-40% contaminated25
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW): Path of US MSW in Mt
Population (M)181205228250282
Total Generation 88121152205234  
Total Materials Recovery 68153369  
Combustion 2725143234  
Discards to landfill 5688123140131  
World Recycling Rates in % of MSW or Packages
Country MSW RecyclingMSW CompostingPackaging

What does MSW data tell us?

These tables take us back to the course's beginning.
Tragedy of the Commons concerned local use of common resources
⇒ "responsibility is product of definite social arrangements."

The course traced that theme through

    energy generation and consumption to

         pollution and environmental effects to

                conservation and alternatives to

                     recycling and reusing resources.

Are there any positive examples, outside US?


Public support for sustainable development and concerns about diminishing landfill drove establishment of first comprehensive national framework to promote recycling. Its ingredients
 High recycling target for municipal waste:
 Extended producer responsibility (EPR) for used packaging.
 Deposit system for beverage containers.
 Requirements for commercial sector to source-separate recyclables.

EPR in 1991 set industry targets: 61% for aluminum, plastic & composites; 70% for paper & cardboard, steel; 75% for glass.

Alternate to industry meeting targets is hiring third parties to collect packaging and ensuring targets met. Fees paid to DSD, a state agency. This is widely copied and has spawned a "Green Dot" system. The 51% recycling rate in 1991 (at start of system) rose to 85% by 2000. Various criticisms and flaws have been corrected, including DSD being sold to a private company.


Like many Asian countries, dense population limits landfill capacity. Incineration is prime means of disposal, nearly 70%. Concerns about emissions have led to more comprehensive policy:

Common patterns have emerged in the face of different policies and approaches:

Public ultimately provides the funding.

EPR (extended producer responsibility) policies, especially with improvements based on experience, have had the greatest impact. Increasingly many countries are moving to voluntary agreements with industries to achieve goals. Their success depends on the adequacy of the incentives.

Grim Reality: MSW is always with us

MSW for Countries with 100% collection
MSW kg/personCountries
< 300Czech-275
400-500Japan-412, Greece-423, Finland-463 Iceland-490
500-600Italy-525, France-540, Germany-593,
600-700Austria-611, Netherlands-619, Norway-685
700-800US-722, Iceland-735, Hong Kong-773
Missing: UK, Australia, Canada,
Almost 100% collection: Mexico-367, Hungary-493, Slovenia-467

Recycle and Reuse
[Saturday, 20-Oct-2018 21:21:11 EDT]
Edited by: on Tuesday, 06-Nov-2007 13:18:48 EST