Time was, we were the only ones on the block recycling. Now in 2015, most of our neighbors drag their recycling out to the curb. Multicolored bins line our street like giant Pez candies.

We’ve noticed since our girls left the house, that we generally only have a small bag of trashy garbage and two large bins of recyclables. That’s a lot of television time.


You read that right; we are helping you watch more television. Okay, so maybe it’s a stretch, but hear me out. According to timetorecycle.org, recycling just one single aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television set for three hours. Recycle one and you’re doing yourself and the planet a good deed. Toss it in a landfill and it’ll still be an aluminum can in 500 years.

What about styrofoam? Did you know styrofoam — aka Plastic #6 — is now accepted by many, if not most recycling facilities? Recycling it saves twice as much energy as incinerating it.

We Americans generate an enormously disproportionate amount of the planet’s waste, yet we only take up about 5% of the population. Some estimates even say we produce between 25% and 40% of the world’s trash. Whatever the actual amount, we can do a whole lot better.

In 2012, Americans generated roughly 251 million tons of trash, but we only recycled and composted about 87 million tons of this material. That’s about a 34 percent recycling rate says the EPA.

According to many different sources, we throw away enough paper each year to construct a 12-foot-high wall from New York to Seattle. That wall would block the Keystone XL pipeline — which may be one positive benefit — until it rained somewhere in the country.

But there’s good news too. Right now, according to another EPA study, by recycling and composting, we’ve saved the same amount of energy that’s consumed by almost 10 million households each year.

Since I grew up in the Motor City, let’s put this into automotive terms, shall we. Remember that one recycled can that you were running your TV set with? It’s also the equivalent of half a gallon of gasoline for your car. Every ton of aluminum cans we recycle saves the energy equivalent of 1,665 gallons of gas. And every ton of paper we recycle saves the energy equivalent of 165 gallons of gas.

So listen up, patriots, if you want to watch more TV, drive further, or not worry about a paper wall crashing down on you, start recycling. Nah, that’s not the message here. Actually, it’s really simple:

Don’t kick the can down the road. Put it in a bin and feel a bit better about yourself.

FUN FACT: The US Soccer Team wore jerseys made almost entirely out of recycled plastic bottles.