Quick, what material do you think has the high recycling rate in the United States? Aluminum cans? Newspaper? Cardboard? You’ll never guess. A report in Waste Advantage magazine says a study recently released finds that lead batteries, the type used to start our cars and myriad other vehicles, have a recycling rate of 99.3 percent, making them the top recycled consumer product. The report attributes this to industry investment in a state-of-the-art closed-loop collection and recycling system.
This report comes in the form of the National Recycling Rate Study released in conjunction with America Recycles Day in November by Essential Energy Everyday and Battery Council International. It goes on to say that on average, a new lead battery consists of more than 80 percent recycled material. Every part of the battery, from lead and plastic to sulfuric acid, gets used in manufacturing new batteries. This reduces the need for new lead mining, reduces waste, and helps keep lead out of landfills.
With the recycling rate for lead batteries so high, you have to wonder what the rates are for other recycled materials. EPA figures for 2014 have newspapers coming in at 63 percent, aluminum cans 55.1 percent, tires 40.5 percent, glass containers 32.5 percent, and PET bottles 32.2 percent.
Going a step further, the overall U.S. recycling rate has been stuck at around 34 percent for the past decade, and it has actually dropped slightly the last year or two. A good New Years resolution would be to get our recycling numbers up across the board, as we have ample room for improvement.
Immersed in the Christmas and New Year holidays, we have plenty of opportunities to recycle before the new year starts. You can also practice several of the other Rs, such as reducing and reusing. Consider reusing wrapping paper saved from last year and saving it for next year. I like to use newspaper for large packages, with a bow on top to add color. When wrapping paper has reached the end of its useful life, you can put it, along with Christmas cards, in the paper and cardboard container at one of our recycling drop-offs. With online shopping so prevalent, we see more cardboard boxes for shipping merchandise. These can be reused or recycled at a drop-off. We get occasional calls about how to recycle Christmas tree lights that don’t work anymore; scrap yards generally take them. As for your Christmas tree, consider composting it, as this would not only enrich the soil but also create habitat for critters (this works under water as well as on the ground). If that’s not an option, perhaps your municipality has a day for curbside pickup; they’ll grind them for mulch. And one of the most prodigious holiday materials to deal with may be leftover food. Consider donating it to a food bank or composting it.
Snyder County Recycling Coordinator
Snyder County Solid Waste Management Authority