Newsletter of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries
Volume 17, No. 8, August 2012
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE | FAST FACTS
The first step to improving our industry’s reputation is to educate the public about the true benefits of recycling. Although the average Canadian might tell you recycling is good for the environment, they likely couldn’t tell you why. Few if any would tell you the industry is beneficial to our economy and essential to the global marketplace.
So how do we answer the curious but uninformed Joe Public? To start, we must change the perception of recycled material. The industrial demand for recyclable commodities grows every year, but many consumers are reluctant to buy products made with recycled content. They mistakenly believe recycled material is used or inferior in quality. This misconception is partly a result of the industry’s being linked with waste. It is essential that we distinguish ourselves from the waste industry.
Waste has no value and no use. Waste is garbage. Recyclables are not garbage; they are valuable resources. Metals, for instance, can be repeatedly recycled with very little change to their original physical properties. Products manufactured with recycled content meet the same quality standards as virgin-material products, and cause significantly less damage to our environment.
How does recycling benefit the environment? Recycling not only lessens the need to deplete scarce raw materials, it requires less energy to produce and emits less carbon dioxide. Each year CARI members process more than 16 million tonnes of metal. For every million tonnes of ferrous scrap, Canada saves the equivalent of 2.5 million barrels of crude oil. It takes four times more energy to produce steel from iron ore than from recycled metal. Aluminum sheet produced from scrap generates 92% less carbon dioxide than sheet produced with primary aluminum. These environmental benefits are not limited to metals: producing one tonne of recycled paper uses 50% less water than virgin wood pulp, and results in 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution. Recycling generates fewer effluent discharges to land, water and air than primary processing and reduces the need for landfills. Less air pollution and lower energy requirements means fewer greenhouse gases, and decreasing the material sent to landfills lessens the potential environmental contamination of these sites.
While the environmental benefits of recycling are great, the economic benefits are often overlooked. Recycling has been proven to create ten times the jobs and revenue of disposal operations. These jobs are created in urban communities, not remote areas. CARI’s informal 2008 survey of the industry concluded we directly employ approximately 34,000 Canadian workers at minimum, and indirectly create jobs for approximately 85,000 Canadians. The economic and employment benefits don’t stop in Canada, because ours is a large international industry. In 2010 Canadian recyclers exported approximately 5.9 million tonnes of metal, valued at $3.6 billion. The BIR estimates 1.6 million people are active in the global recycling industry, handling more than 600 million tonnes of recyclables each year and generating billions of dollars of economic activity worldwide.
Our industry has a lot to be proud of, but we’ve done a poor job of communicating our true value. Ignorance about our industry means less support for recycling in general and for the issues the industry faces. Let’s get the word out.
- Presenters at the e-Waste Academy held recently in Ghana by the United Nations University and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative said less than 15% of the gold and silver contained in post-consumer electronics is being recovered for recycling. Developing countries with informal recycling sectors currently collect as much as 90% of their locally generated e-waste. However those recyclers cannot recover approximately half of the gold in e-scrap due to unsophisticated dismantling processes. The Academy’s intent is to share existing knowledge and research into the effective management of electronic waste.
- A recent study by the U.S. environmental advocacy group “As You Sow” claims $11 billion of recyclable materials are sent to landfill annually. According to the report, PET accounts for the highest value of discarded packaging, with $2.9 billion worth sent to landfill in 2010, meaning less than one-third of U.S. PET bottles are recycled. The group says “post-consumer packaging materials comprise the largest category of solid waste, and U.S. taxpayers pay for its management.” They are using the study to promote an Extended Producer Responsibility program for post-consumer packaging and to encourage the U.S. government to improve its waste collection infrastructure.
- Manitoba’s electronics stewardship program came into effect earlier this month with a point-of-purchase recycling fee being added to a variety of electronic products. The program will be managed by the Electronics Products Recycling Association, which plans to set up a network of collection programs with retailers and municipalities.
- The Automotive Recyclers of Canada have developed a new environmental code for Canadian auto recyclers. CAREC, the Canadian Auto Recyclers’ Environmental Code, came out of the highly successful and now defunct “Retire Your Ride” program. It outlines a national standard for environmental safety and best practices. CAREC is meant as a guide for Canadian recyclers to better understand the industry’s laws and regulations.
- Last month ISRI approved a new specification for shredded aircraft scrap, “twirl,” for Fragmentizer Aircraft Aluminum Scrap (2000 and 7000 series). According to AMM.com, the specification requires the material to be dry and to contain no more than 2% free zinc, 1% free magnesium and 1.5% free iron, and stainless with a maximum of 2% analytical iron.
- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed a regulation that would require steel scrap users to declare their product “may contain conflict minerals.” The Congressional Steel Caucus says such a classification would put U.S. steelmakers at a global disadvantage and discourage the use of scrap material. They say it is impossible to track the original source of the tungsten or tantalum in recycled scrap, which might have been recycled several times over and the regulation would do nothing to “contribute to the humanitarian purpose of the law.” The SEC is set to vote on this regulation on August 22.