Recycling fun facts
Karen Youso, Star Tribune
RE-USE BEFORE YOU RECYCLE
Turn an old detergent bottle on its side, handle up, lid on, and cut the bottom off to make a handy scoop.
The Metrodome recycles more beverage containers than any other stadium in the country. Last year, it recycled 44.2 tons of brown plastic beer bottles and plastic cups.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Every hour, Americans use 4 million plastic bottles, but we recycle only one-fourth of them.
SLEEPING WITH THE BOTTLE
It takes 85 20-ounce water or pop bottles to make enough fiberfill for one sleeping bag.
Rigid plastic jugs have "memory." When opening a bale of flattened plastic jugs, workers tend to stand back, because the bales can "explode" as the jugs try to return to their former shape.
In many places, including Minnesota, bins for recycling have to be made of recycled material and be recycled themselves.
STRIP CAPS AND RINGS?
Check with your local recycling program to see if you should remove bottle caps and neck rings. Some programs want them removed because they typically are made of a different kind of plastic (polypropylene rather than polyethylene terephthalate, or PET). Others say removal is unnecessary because the cap and neck ring are removed in the sorting or manufacturing processes.
CANS WITH A BRITISH ACCENT
Rexam Beverage Can Americas Inc., a division of Rexam PLC in England, has can-making plants across North and South America. Workers at the St. Paul plant are members of the United Steelworkers of America. They make cans for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, 7Up, A&W Root Beer, Tahitian Treat and more.
IF YOU'RE 18 OR OLDER
You can tour Rexam in St. Paul. You'll see can bottoms get pulled into shiny, naked cans called "brights." Follow them as they bathe, then move across the room, sometimes upside down. Watch them get sprayed, baked and packed for shipping, and all the time they're topless.
TRIMMING OFF THE TOP
Aluminum cans had straight sides until the 1980s, when manufacturers started to narrow their tops. Why? The little bit of aluminum saved per can translates into millions of dollars a year, and that's just at the St. Paul can-making plant. But don't worry: The cans hold the same amount of beverage, because there's always been a little breathing space at the top.
OLD AND SCRAPPY
A recycled aluminum can contains about 40 percent consumer-recycled aluminum. Add recycled scrap from processing and the recycled content climbs to as much as 90 percent.
AN EDDY EDUCATION
When recycled material arrives at the MRF (material recovery facility), a huge magnet pulls out any steel cans.
Aluminum cans, however, aren't attracted to magnets. Instead, an eddy current, created when a conductor is placed in a changing magnetic field, is used to repel any aluminum. Air currents "blow" aluminum cans into holding containers as much as 30 feet away, with almost perfect aim.
A FIBER SUPPLEMENT
A piece of paper can be recycled seven to 15 times before the fibers get too short for making paper. Those waste fibers are collected and sold to farmers as an additive for enriching soil.
Newspaper has been collected for recycling for decades, especially during World War II in government-sponsored scrap drives. Scout groups, churches and other organizations also have conducted paper drives.
A TREEHUGGER'S RATIONALE
Cuts waste: Paper accounts for
40 percent of all municipal waste.
Saves energy: 60 to 70 percent energy savings over virgin pulp.
Protects natural resources: Recycled paper saves forests, uses 55 percent less water, reduces water pollution by 35 percent and air pollution by 74 percent, and eliminates many toxic pollutants.
It takes just three hours for scrap paper sitting in Rock-Tenn's back lot to become rolls of fine paperboard, each weighing 1,500 to 2,200 pounds, coated white and ready for printing, enough to make 35,000 Puffs cartons.
The Star Tribune's recycled content can vary, fluctuating between 35 and 50 percent. The goal is to have the recycled content as high as possible, but not below 30 percent.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press uses an average of 23 percent post-consumer recycled content.
Not all glass bottles you set out for recycling will be recycled. Some end up in a landfill. For example, only half of the glass picked up by Waste Management Recycle America Alliance gets recycled. The other half is used as a filter layer to assist in landfill operations or as daily cover to minimize blow-offs (wind-carried material).
OLD AS DIRT
The first glass was formed with molten volcanic rock that cooled quickly (obsidian), or when lightning struck a beach, forming glass. The first glass containers are thought to have been the work of Egyptians around 1500 B.C.
OLD GLASS MAKES NEW
Like aluminum in cans, glass can be recycled repeatedly into new bottles. New glass is made from sand, soda ash, limestone and, best of all, recycled glass. The more recycled glass used, the less virgin materials are needed. And because broken glass, called cullet, melts at a lower temperature than the raw materials used in making new glass, less energy is required to produce glass from recycled glass.
THE ENVIRONMENT TAKES A HIT
Five years ago, bottles made at Anchor Glass contained 60 to 65 percent recycled glass. Today they contain only 30 percent. The reason? Supply of cullet has dropped dramatically since recycling companies send part of the glass they collect on a one-way trip to the landfill.
Five years ago, the glass factory was getting 85,000 tons a year of recycled glass; now it may get 40,000 tons.
HOT AND COOL
Glass factories have two sides: a hot side that melts the glass, cuts and molds it into a bottle shape, and a cool side where bottles are checked for defects and packed for shipping.
On the hot side, air temperatures in summertime can reach 200 degrees.
TALK ABOUT HIGH GAS BILLS
Anchor Glass in Shakopee spends about $1 million a month on natural gas.
Every glass bottle has a "peanut" at the bottom. The peanut is an embossed code. There is also an ink-jet code, visible under black light, that tells where and when the bottle was made.
NEW LIFE FOR OLD HOMEWORK?
Every Puffs tissue box you see was made in St. Paul at the Rock-Tenn plant. It could be that the sheets of your old math homework, or last year's telephone books, are in there somewhere.
When you recycle newspaper, it often gets turned into a cereal box. That means you get to "read" the paper a second time at the breakfast table.
Aluminum baseball bats are recyclable, and are likely to contain recycled aluminum.
THE POWER TO WATCH
Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run your TV three hours.
MADE IN MINNESOTA
All A1 Steak Sauce bottles are made in Minnesota, using recycled glass.
RECYCLE A BOTTLE; LIGHT A BULB
The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can be enough to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
Aluminum cans had straight sides until the 1980s, when manufacturers started to narrow their tops. Why? The little bit of aluminum saved per can translates into millions of dollars a year, and that's just at the St. Paul can-making plant. But don't worry: The cans hold the same amount of beverage, because there's always a little air at the top.