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Refuse equals energy

IT has been calculated that if all the energy consumed in the world at the turn of the century were represented by a single phonograph record, today's annual energy consumption would require a stack of records considerably higher than the Empire State Building. The world urgently needs to control its energy appetite, and recycling could play a major role, says Cynthia Pollock of the Worldwatch Institute.

Recycling could have a dramatic effect on energy consumption, as well as conserving natural resources and cutting pollution, Ms. Pollock notes. Take aluminum, for example. Recycling this common metal, she says, ``requires only 5 percent as much energy as producing it from bauxite [the original ore].'' Furthermore, remelting a ton of used aluminum saves four tons of bauxite and 700 kilograms (1,500 pounds) of petroleum coke and pitch, as well as reducing air-polluting emissions of aluminum fluoride by 35 kilograms (77 pounds).

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If aluminum recovery was doubled worldwide, Pollock says, ``over a million tons a year of air pollutants would be eliminated.''

Even a recycled beverage can, for instance, ``saves the energy equivalent of a half can of gasoline,'' she notes. On a larger scale, making new steel from old offers up to 74 percent in energy savings. New glass from salvaged glass, new plastic from old plastic, and new paper from recycled paper also offer significant energy and pollution savings. The very fact that more than half of the American waste stream is paper indicates its energy-saving potential.

Pollock's calculation is astounding: ``Simply recovering the print run of a Sunday issue of the New York Times would leave 75,000 trees standing.''


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