Hey Mr. Green,
Where I live, there is NO glass recycling. So is buying beverages in recyclable aluminum "greener" than buying non-recyclable glass? —Gerry, in New Orleans
Recycling glass is not easy in the Big Easy, because handling and transporting glass is not economically feasible, according to recycling contractors there. But take heart: It is indeed much greener to recycle aluminum containers than to send glass to the landfill. Although mining and manufacturing aluminum from scratch probably requires more energy than making glass (comparative studies on the subject disagree), recycling aluminum reduces aluminum’s energy use by a whopping 95 percent. Therefore, you come out way ahead when you recycle aluminum instead of dumping glass, in terms of energy conservation and greenhouse gas emission. Also, mining bauxite (aluminum ore) can be a dirty process, so recycling the metal helps reduce the environmental burden of mining.
You can also take solace in the fact that we now recycle more than 50 percent of the aluminum beverage containers in the United States, but then we throw away around 50 billion a year, or more than 700,000 tons of aluminum—enough, says the Container Recycling Institute, to build about 8,000 Boeing 747s. Progress or staggering waste? It depends on whether your proverbial beverage container is half full or half empty.