Sunday, February 14, 2010

What is the cost to clean recycling - how much time, energy and water is used?

Here is a question that we do not readily find an answer for on the net:

What is the cost to clean recycling - how much time, energy and water is used?

Obviously these questions have been analyzed to death by the recycling business, at least from the perspective of what is sorted, cleaned and recycled under their roofs. To a lesser extent, municipalities also review all sorts of benchmarks

But what about the portion of the job that is handled domestically? Neither the recycling industry, nor municipalities, are overly concerned with the amount of time, energy and resources that go into cleaning recycling in the home.

I haven't been able to find any information on this on the internet.

It brings up another question: Is it better to clean containers being recycled thoroughly, superficially or not at all?

I have often noticed that some people put  their recycling out super clean, super neat and sorted to the nth degree. Now, our area has gone to the large "unsorted" recycling bins. So, sorting is obviously more efficiently handled at the processing plant.

What about cleaning the containers with food waste in them?

If left to dry out, does this waste present a huge problem? Or is the water, energy and time we expend in the home to clean one container a complete waste? Or worse?

Of course the recycler can be marginally more profitable if all the containers coming in are pre-cleaned. But at what cost?

What do people use? 500 ml of cold water to clean each tin, or a gallon of hot water? Has this been researched?

So, say there are approximately 13 million households in Canada. Say each household turns on the tap an average of twice per day - once hot, once cold - to rinse out recycle items. And let's say each time the tap is turned on the average usage is one liter. OK, that would be 13 million liters each of cold and hot water per day. It has been calculated that it takes approximately 150 kj to heat a liter of water by 25C. So, if these numbers are anywhere near correct, then each day 26 million liters of water are used in homes to rinse out recycling - and 1.95, or you might as well say 2 billion, kilojoules of energy are used to heat the water. Because I'm just guessing about everything, I'm not going to bother figuring out how to relate 2 billion kjs to anything. But you may be curious enough to put a value amount on 26 million liters. Here's one view on it... Halifax charges $2 for a cubic meter (m3 = 1000 liters) of water at a bulk fill station. So 26 million liters would go for $52,000.

What does this all mean? I don't know but, any way you look at it, there is a cost factor to in home recycling preparation.

I would like to follow up on this in the future.

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