Check Out the View
I happen to be back in our NYC office today, and the view out my window looks vastly different than the view I typically have while working from home. Ever look out the window (assuming you have one) at work and wonder who is engaged in a similar task that you face almost every day? Does the thought ever drift across your mind that your efforts are part of a more extensive process – a large industry, for example, and your efforts move things along? This idea seems much more likely on a day like today, when I’ve passed hundreds of people on my way in to work.
At TRC, we think about recycling every day. If you’re in the recycling business as we are, do these thoughts creep in repeatedly? With the world becoming more environmentally aware, recycling might not be your business, but it is most likely still part of your everyday.
Here are several random facts about the recycling industry and its impact that you might find interesting.
- Who’s the biggest? In ranking the world’s 15 largest recycling companies by revenue, Waste Management, a publicly held company, ranked first with more than $15 billion in revenue. Holding the second spot is privately held Veolia Environmental Service, with more than $12 billion in revenue. You might recognize the name. We use their Port Washington, Wisconsin, operation to recycle our mercury-containing thermostats.
- Aluminum timeline. How long does it take to recycle an aluminum drink can before someone places it back on the grocery shelf? Just 60 days. It’s a good thing, too, because Americans love to recycle aluminum cans, which we recycle more often than any other type of drink container and are recyclable over and over again.
- Paper waste. In 2018, we recycled 52 million tons of paper. That’s a whole lot of paper. Put in more colorful terms, it’s about the same weight as 350,000 Blue whales.
- Plastic container graveyard. Ever wonder what happens to those recycled plastic containers? Well, they can be used to create new plastic containers and other plastic-like products like cellphone cases, playground equipment, clothes and rugs.
- The Golden Rule. Recycling can make one person’s trash another person’s treasure! For example, one metric ton of electronic scrap from personal computers contains more gold than that recovered from 17 tons of gold ore.
Let’s Not Forget the Big Picture
While these factoids are informative, interesting, and yes, even fun to read, it is the larger message that we should think about when assessing recycling efforts. There is mostly unanimity on the acceptance that pollution of every kind hurts our planet and endangers the future of our civilization. However, if we work together, the combined effort can make the world whole again.
Is this an idealistic consideration? It is. But then, a touch of idealism never really hurt anyone.