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Return-It Blog

February 23, 2017

Millions of small acts

The success of our system for recycling beverage containers proves that millions of small acts can add up to a big win for the environment. Whether it is aluminum cans, juice boxes, cartons, or glass and plastic bottles, if you are a typical BC resident, you probably generate four or five empty beverage containers a week. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but do the math and it adds up to hundreds of millions of empty beverage containers a year that would end up in the landfill, if British Columbians like you hadn’t returned those containers for recycling.

In fact, in 2015 almost 1 billion used beverage containers were returned and recycled into new products. That includes more than 360 million aluminum cans, 338 million plastic bottles, 195 million glass bottles and 71 million drink boxes and cartons.

In total nearly 100,000 metric tons of material was kept out of BC’s landfills. If you find it hard to imagine what that means, then consider that it is the equivalent weight of 60,000 mid-sized cars. That’s right; the equivalent of 60,000 cars was removed from BC’s landfills, a few cans, bottles and cartons at a time.

But that’s not the only benefit for BC.  Recycling empty containers uses less energy than producing new ones.  For example, used aluminum cans are turned into new cans, a process that uses only 5% of the energy it takes to make new aluminum. Drink boxes and cartons are pulped and made into tissue and cardboard, saving 17 trees for every ton of paper fibre produced.  Plastic bottles are 100 percent recyclable for use in new plastic containers, and glass bottles are made into new bottles and sandblasting material.

BC would not have one of the highest recycling rates in North America without consumers making the decision to do the right thing for the environment. That amounts to almost 3 million containers a day diverted from landfills to be made into new products – a lot of small acts adding up to a lot of good for BC.