Recycling does not generate electricity, but it can do something almost as good: it prevents the need for producing as much electricity in the first place. In addition to saving material resources, recycling metal, plastic, or paper products into something new requires much less energy than manufacturing new products from scratch. Recycling aluminum requires 95% less energy than making aluminum products from raw materials; for copper the number is 85%, and for lead 60%. Recycling plastics saves about 90% of the energy that would be needed to make the same plastic products from raw materials, and recycling paper saves about 60% of the energy used to make paper from newly harvested tree fibers. So recycling may not generate energy, but it still has an important part to play in helping us meet our energy needs as sustainably as possible.
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