Recycling Facts & Tips for a Variety of Materials

HSA Golden was been a contractor to Waste Management for many years, and they’ve put together an excellent, comprehensive guide for recycling a wide variety of materials, in addition to detailing how much energy and landfill space the recycling of these materials will save.  We’ve summarized their information below; more detailed information can be found at

Recycling one ton of aluminum:
Saves 14,000 kWh of energy
Saves 39.6 barrels (1,663 gallons) of oil
Saves 10 cubic yards of landfill space

Aluminum Recycling Tips

  • Prepare aluminum cans for recycling by either crushing the cans to save space or leaving them uncrushed.
  • Cans that are rinsed out will have little or no odor and are less likely to attract bugs.

Did You Know?

  • Recycling aluminum takes 95% less energy than making aluminum from raw materials.
  • Two out of three aluminum cans were recycled in the United States in 1995.
  • The industry is also helping to conserve aluminum resources through a process called lightweighting. Fewer materials are used in the aluminum can so fewer resources are extracted. In 1992, the aluminum can weighed 24% less than a can designed in 1972. Where it once took 22 cans to make a pound, it now takes 30 cans to make a pound.


Recycling one ton of cardboard:
Saves 390 kWh of energy
Saves 1.1 barrels (46 gallons) of oil

Cardboard Recycling Tips

  • Prepare cardboard for recycling by removing all other materials in the box such as plastic wrap, polystyrene peanuts and other packing materials.
  • Break down cardboard boxes to save storage space.
  • Try to keep cardboard dry and free from food waste. Cardboard can get wet and still be recycled, but is more difficult to carry due to the added weight of the water.

 Did You Know?

  • Recycling one ton of cardboard saves over 9 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • Recycled cardboard saves 24% of the total energy needed for virgin cardboard.


Recycling one ton of glass:
Saves 42 kWh of energy
Saves 0.12 barrels (5 gallons) of oil
Saves 2 cubic yards of landfill space
Saves 7.5 pounds of air pollutants from being released

Glass Recycling Tips

  • Prepare glass containers for recycling by rinsing out with water.
  • Labels on glass containers do not have to be removed because they are removed during the crushing process and/or burned off during the melting process.
  • Avoid breaking the glass and mixing broken colors together as this may make the glass unacceptable for recycling.
  • Waste Management-Recycle America offers a service known as Container Recycling Alliance (CRA) which is a national recycling organization for recovering glass containers, including clear, brown and green bottles and jars. The CRA features state-of-the-art fully automated ceramic detection and color sorting equipment, as well as full bottle destruction and decasing capabilities.

Did You Know?

  • Recycling glass saves 30% of the energy required when producing glass from raw materials (soda, ash, sand and limestone). Crushed glass, called cullet, melts at a lower temperature than the raw materials, which saves energy.
  • The United States throws away enough glass bottles and jars to fill a 1,350 square foot building every week.
  • Refillable glass bottles use 19,000 Btu’s of energy as compared to 58,000 Btu’s used by throwaway glass bottles.


Recycling one ton of newsprint:
Saves 601 kWh of energy
Saves 1.7 barrels (71 gallons) of oil
Saves 4.6 cubic yards of landfill space
Saves 7,000 gallons of water
Saves 15 trees

Newsprint Recycling Tips

  • Cardboard boxes, paper bags and other non-newsprint paper are considered contaminants and are not compatible with newspaper recycling.
  • It takes time to sort non-newsprint materials out at recovery facilities, so save them time and labor by not mixing non-newsprint items with your newsprint.

Did You Know?

  • Recycled newspaper saves 34 to 60% of the total energy needed for virgin newsprint.
  • 10 million tons of newsprint is thrown away each year in the United States.
  • Approximately 65,000 to 75,000 trees are needed to produce paper for the Sunday edition of the New York Times.


Recycling one ton of paper:
Saves 4,100 kWh of energy
Saves 9 barrels (380 gallons) of oil
Saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space
Saves 60 pounds of air pollutants being released
Saves 7,000 gallons of water
Saves 17 trees

Paper Recycling Tips

  • Recyclable paper includes: Magazines and catalogs, telephone books, direct mail, brochures, pamphlets and booklets in addition to cereal, cake, chip and cracker boxes.
  • Be sure to remove the liner and all food from the box, flatten the box and place flattened box in a paper sack with your junk mail, mixed paper, magazines and catalogs.
  • Non-recyclable paper includes tissue, waxed and carbon paper.

Did You Know?

  • 4.5 million tons of office paper is thrown away each year in the United States.
  • Enough office and writing paper is thrown away each year to build a 12-foot high wall of paper from Los Angeles to New York City.
  • Annually, each person in the United States uses paper equivalent to two pine trees. Recycled paper saves 33% of the total energy needed for virgin paper.
  • The average American uses 650 lbs. of paper per year.
  • Producing recycled white paper creates 74% less air pollution, 35% less water pollution, and 75% less processed energy than producing paper from virgin fibers.


Recycling one ton of plastic:
Saves 5,774 kWh energy
Saves 16.3 barrels (685 gallons) of oil
Saves 30 cubic yards of landfill space

Plastic Recycling Tips

  • Prepare plastic containers for recycling by ensuring first that they are either:
    #1 (PETE): soda-pop bottles, cooking-oil bottles and peanut-butter jars
    #2 (HDPF): milk, water and juice bottles, bleach and detergent bottles, margarine tubs and some grocery sacks
    #3 (PVC): window cleaner bottles, cooking-oil containers and detergent powder containers
    #4 (LDPE): food packaging, shrink-wrap, carryout bags and heavy-duty bags
    #5 (PP): butter and margarine tubs, yogurt containers, screw-on caps and drinking straws
    #6 (PS)*: Compact disk cases, aspirin bottles, clean plates, cutlery
    *Note – Polystyrene foam including foam cups, plates, and packing materials are non-recyclable.
    #7 (Other): squeezable syrup and condiment bottles and some microwave food trays
    These identification codes are often on the bottom of the plastic container encircled by three chasing arrows.
  • Remove plastic tops from the plastic containers being recycled and rinse containers with water.
  • Crushing containers will help save space while storing them.

Did You Know?

  • Enough plastic bottles are thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
  • Approximately 88% of the energy is saved by producing plastic from plastic as opposed to manufacturing plastic from the raw materials of oil and gas.
  • The number of plastics recycling businesses has nearly tripled over the past several years, with more than 1,700 businesses handling and reclaiming post-consumer plastics.
  • By using plastic in packaging, American product manufacturers save enough energy each year to power a city of 1 million homes for three and a half years.
  • Since 1977, the 2-liter plastic soft drink bottle has gone from weighing 68 grams to just 51 grams today, representing a 25% reduction per bottle. That saves more than 206 million pounds of packaging each year. The 1-gallon plastic milk jug has undergone an even greater reduction, weighing 30% less than what it did 20 years ago.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that using plastic foam insulation in homes and buildings will save close to 60 million barrels of oil each year vs. other kinds of insulation.
  • The lives of more than 1,900 police officers have been saved through the use of protective vests made from plastic fibers.


Recycling one ton of steel:
Saves 642 kWh of energy
Saves 1.8 barrels (76 gallons) of oil
Saves 4 cubic yards of landfill space

Steel Recycling Tips

  • Prepare steel cans for recycling by rinsing them with water to remove any food residue.
  • To save space, remove both ends of the steel can and crush flat.
  • Labels on the steel cans do not have to be removed since they are burned off during the melting process.

Did You Know?

  • Steel cans, which are used for holding coffee, vegetables and other food products are often referred to as tin cans, but there is only 0.15% tin in a steel can.
  • The United States throws away enough iron and steel to continuously supply all the nation’s automakers.
  • The average passenger tire contains approximately 10% steel wire by weight.