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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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Environmental Benefits of Recycling

Recycling is a well-documented environmental success story. In 2006, New Jersey recycled over 12 million tons of its total solid waste! Recycling not only saves resources and energy, but also reduces the need for landfills and resource recovery facilities.

Natural Resource Conservation

  • Over 2 million tons of iron ore, coal, limestone, sand, soda ash, and feldspar were saved by recycling scrap metal and glass in New Jersey in 2006.
  • Four pounds of bauxite ore is saved for every pound of aluminum recycled.
  • One ton of glass made from 50% recycled materials saves 250 lbs. of mining waste.
  • Over 100 million tree seedlings were grown as a result of paper recycling programs in New Jersey in 2006.
  • Recycling plastic containers reduces the need for virgin plastics which are made from petrochemicals.
  • Recycling reduces the need for new landfills and incinerators; almost 5 million tons of landfill space were saved in 2006.

Energy Conservation

  • In 2006, New Jersey’s recycling efforts saved over 235 trillion BTUs of energy. This is equivalent to almost 2 billion gallons of gasoline. It represents the amount of energy that would be required to power over 2,000,000 homes for one year in New Jersey.
  • Aluminum produced from used beverage cans requires 90-95% less energy than aluminum produced from bauxite ore; In addition, steel produced from recycled ferrous metals requires 74% less energy than steel produced from virgin ores
  • Recycled glass production requires 20% less energy than glass production from virgin materials.
  • Recycled paper production also requires between 23% to 74% less energy than virgin paper production.

Reductions in Emissions of Air and Water Pollutants

  • Recycled paper production creates 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution than virgin paper production.
  • The production of recycled steel creates 85% less air pollution and 40% less water pollution than the production of steel from virgin ore.
  • Recycled glass production creates 20% less air pollution than does production with virgin materials.

Greenhouse Gas Reductions

  • Recycling also promotes our state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction goals. As noted above, the recycling of paper, plastic, glass, aluminum cans and steel cans reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2 million metric tons of carbon equivalents in 2006. The United States Environmental Protection Agency calculated that on average, approximately 1.67 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) equivalents are avoided for every ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) recycled.
  • If the MSW recycling rate increases from 34% to 50%, a total of 7.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in avoided Greenhouse Gas emissions would result.

    Source: Northeast Recycling Council Environmental Benefits Calculator and NJDEP National Specific Recycling Rates, 2006.


Contact: Steven Rinaldi, NJDEP, Bureau of Recycling and Hazardous Waste Management- or 609-984-3438.


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Last Updated: February 9, 2015