Recycling and Climate Change

Reducing waste, recycling and composting are effective ways to decrease the generation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. They achieve these benefits in two ways:

  1. by helping save energy in the processing of materials for industrial and consumer use, and
  2. by reducing the flow of materials -- especially food and other organic wastes -- into landfills where anaerobic decomposition produces methane.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has provided the WARM Model to help community recycling programs and the public calculate the potential greenhouse gas savings from the reduction, recycling and composting of discarded materials. 

Recycling Materials Saves Energy

Download 11 x 17 <a target="_blank" class="icon-pdf" href="/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=7b4190f0-9c8f-4006-812a-74cd2358ce6a&groupId=38322">[PDF]</a> or <a target="_blank" class="icon-img" href="/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=1a97fa20-8573-4f1b-8af8-e285709696b1&groupId=38322">[JPG]</a>.Every time a new product is made from raw materials, large amounts of energy are consumed. We can think of the role energy plays in the four stages of product development: extraction of raw materials, the manufacture of these materials into products, product use by consumers and product disposal. In most cases, recycling uses less energy, which translates into fewer fossil fuels burned and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. 

Recycling of metals can be a particularly powerful way to save energy. For example, using recycled aluminum scraps to make aluminum cans takes 95 percent less energy than making aluminum cans from bauxite ore, the raw material used to produce aluminum. Another example is steel - it takes 75 percent less energy to make recycled steel than steel produced from its raw material, iron ore.

Outreach Materials

  • Recycling Saves Energy Social Media Toolkit
  • Recycling Saves Energy (11 x 17 Poster) PDF or JPG
  • Composting and the Environment (11 x 17 Poster) PDF or JPG
  • Waste and Its Link to Greenhouse Gas Emissions (11 x 17 Poster) PDF or JPG

References and Links