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More with Less

Plastics can help you bring home more product with less packaging. For example, just two pounds of plastic can deliver 1,000 ounces—roughly eight gallons—of a beverage such as juice, soda or water. You'd need three pounds of aluminum to bring home the same amount, eight pounds of steel or 27 pounds of glass. Not only do plastic bags require less total energy to produce than paper bags, they conserve fuel in shipping. It takes seven trucks to carry the same number of paper bags as fits in one truckload of plastic bags. Plastics make packaging more efficient, which ultimately conserves resources.


Plastics engineers are always working to do even more with less material. Since 1977, the two-liter plastic soft drink bottle has gone from weighing 68 grams to just 51 grams today, representing a 25 percent reduction per bottle. That saves more than 206 million pounds of packaging each year. The one-gallon plastic milk jug has undergone an even greater reduction, weighing 30 percent less than what it did 20 years ago. How many of us can say that?


  • By recycling one ton (2,000 lbs.) of paper, we save: 17 trees; 6,953 gallons of water; 463 gallons of oil; 587 pounds of air pollution; 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space and 4,077 Kilowatt hours of energy.
  • Around 45 percent of the paper Americans use each year (over 47 million tons) is recovered for recycling. This is made into a wide variety of goods such as new newsprint, boxes and office paper, paper towels, tissue products, insulation, cereal boxes, molded packaging, hydro-mulch, gypsum wallboard—even compost and kitty litter.
  • 80 percent of U.S. papermakers use some recovered fiber in manufacturing, and nearly 200 mills use ONLY recovered paper for their fiber.
  • The average American uses 650 lbs. of paper per year.
  • 100 million tons of wood could be saved each year if all that paper was actually recycled.

Sources: American Forest & Paper Association, Inc.; Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Weyerhaeuser


  • Americans go through 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  • Since 1978, the weight of a soda bottle has been reduced by 29 percent.
  • HDPE (#1) and PET (#2) are the most commonly recycled plastics.
  • Recycling a ton of PET saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • Half of all polyester carpet manufactured in the U.S. is made from recycled soda bottles.
  • Recycled plastic is also made into plastic lumber, clothing, flower pots, insulation for sleeping bags & ski jackets, car bumpers and more.

Sources: American Plastics Council, Environmental Defense, NAPCOR


  • Currently 100 percent of all beverage cans are made from aluminum. Aluminum cans made their first appearance in America in 1953. We use about 392 cans per person per year.
  • Aluminum cans typically have a recycled aluminum content of about 55 percent.
  • 62.8 billion or 63.5 percent of aluminum cans are recycled annually.
  • Recycling aluminum saves about 95 percent of the energy it would take to produce aluminum from its original source, bauxite.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough electricity to run a TV for three hours.
  • Aluminum recycling is so efficient that it can take as few as 60 days for a can to be collected, melted down and made into a new can sitting on a grocery store shelf.
  • Recycled aluminum is made into cans, pie pans, house siding, small appliances, lawn furniture; in fact , almost everything aluminum.

Sources: The Aluminum Association, Inc.; National Soft Drink Association


  • The steel (or "tin") can was invented in England in the early 1800s. Today an increasing amount of steel cans are tin free.
  • The average American uses 142 steel cans annually.
  • The steel packaging recycled in 2000 would yield enough steel to build 185,000 steel framed homes—the equivalent number of homes in Wyoming.
  • In 2002, 25 percent of all new homes will be framed in recycled steel.
  • The steel from the more than 84 percent of appliances (39 million) recycled last year yielded enough steel to build about 160 football stadiums.
  • Recycling just one car saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.
  • 95 percent of scrap automobiles were recycled in 2000 in the U.S., at a rate of 25 cars every minute.
  • Through recycling each year, the steel industry saves enough energy to power 18 million homes—one-fifth of the households in the U.S.
  • Recycled steel is made into steel cans, building materials, tools—in fact, almost everything steel.

Sources: Steel Recycling Institute; Environmental Protection Agency

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