Milwaukee OnLine Journal Of Social Enterprise

Confessions of a Recylcler

February, 2005

We each have our quirks. Much to the chagrin of my children, and perhaps some of my colleagues, I have a thing about cans Ė aluminum cans, that is. I canít bear to see them go to waste. When I see a can tossed in with the trash, or smashed by the curb, it riles my passions the way that others might experience when they see a book in the trash, or a bumper sticker for the wrong political party.

Itís not just that cans in the trash needlessly fill up our landfills. Itís that every ounce of aluminum that canít be made from recycled aluminum has to be extracted from a bauxite mine Ė a large, gaping moonscape of a hole that is gouged from someoneís favorite wilderness. And the energy required to extract the aluminum from the bauxite is considerable. Making new aluminum cans from bauxite takes 20 times the energy that is needed to make the same can from recycled materials. Another way of thinking about this is that tossing out an aluminum can wastes as much energy as in half a can of gasoline. Think about it!

The good news is that roughly two-thirds of aluminum cans are recycled. I know that all the cans in YOUR household are recycled, but there is clearly still plenty of room for improvement. Apparently we Americans throw enough aluminum away to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet every three months. By my own rough calculations, if we recycled all of our aluminum, weíd save enough fuel to power 3.5 million average cars for a year. If thatís not good for America, I donít know what is! Just think of the wars we wouldnít have to fight!

So, maybe youíll want to join me in my fetish. Be brave Ė donít be afraid to pick up that can you see along the curb, or poking out of a trashcan. And donít be afraid to suggest better recycling practices at your place of business, church, or wayside. Itís the patriotic thing to do.

Last edited by TeganDowling. Based on work by g.  Page last modified on April 04, 2005

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