Does Being Green Make Economic Sense? – Part 2 – Recycled Paper and Reusable Batteries

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In Part 1 of this series, we saw that it does not (unfortunately) make economic sense to purchase a hybrid car, unless there is a tax credit that is specifically associated with the make/model for which you are searching.
Continuing with this topic, today, I’d like to analyze whether or not it is economically beneficially (or at least not detrimental) to 1) purchase recycled paper and 2) use rechargeable batteries.

So, let’s get started.

Is it economically beneficial to purchase recycled paper? 

Recently, as I was reading an article on the internet, it mentioned that the majority of major corporations nowadays (even in the “green” era) are still using non-recycled printer paper for the their managed printing jobs company-wide.

This got me thinking what the driver was behind this and what the difference in price is between recycled and non-recycled paper. And more importantly, is the gap indeed big enough that it would cause a company to go with the non-environmentally friendly route?

 To do this analysis, we need to get the prices of several types of paper. In looking around, it appears that a good standard order size is 20 lbs / 5000 sheets of paper. Using this as the common size, I found the following prices on the Staples website.

Geez, this is not looking to promising for recycled paper. If you wanted to purchase 100% recycled paper, you would be committing to paying nearly a 50% premium! What’s goin’ on here?

So, let’s now look at the difference in cost of using recycled and non-recycled paper using a real world example.

According to the link below, University of Washington uses 625 tons of paper per year. In terms of lbs, this equates to 1,250,000 lbs of paper. Wow! This is wild, but not surprising.

University of Washington Printer Paper Usage

After running the numbers (see table below), I figured that University of Washington can save $1.2 Million by using the non-recycled paper. 

So, from the evidence we have seen here, it appears that it most definitely does not (unfortunately) make sense economically to purchase recycled paper.

To me, this is sort of sad news to hear. However, I don’t mean to get every one down. I feel that by having this knowledge in hand, we can more actively work towards creating a solution for this.

At this point, you may also be asking yourself, “why does recycled paper cost more than non-recycled?”

As far as I could find, the main reasons for recycled paper costing more are 1) there isn’t as much supply of recycled paper (as in we has individuals need to work more at recycling all of the paper that we can) and 2) the supply chain for recycled paper is not as established and profitable yet as normal, non-recycled paper. Since it is not as profitable, the paper companies have to pass on the added cost to the consumers for now.

A quick side note/question: I recently heard somewhere that even though recycled copy paper/writing paper is more expensive than non-recycled, the recycled version of toilet paper is actually less expensive. Can anyone validate this?

Ok, so now on to our 2nd topic of the day…

Is it economically beneficial to purchase rechargeable batteries?

Several years ago, I purchased a pack of Energizer Rechargeable Batteries with the intention of using them to replace regular disposable AA batteries around the house.

I have used them every-so-often, but I always seem to find myself mixing in the use disposable AA’s either due to convenience, or the fact that regular AA batteries were available wherever I was at the time I needed them. I figured that by doing a good job investigating this today, it would not only educate me, but also help you all reading this as well.

To do this, as is usually the case, we’ll need to obtain pricing information for 1) rechargeable AA batteries and the associated charging device and 2) regular dispoable AA batteries. Both will be the same brand, Energizer, and we will assume that electricity costs involved with recharging batteries are negligible, in order to simplify the comparison.

Given these assumptions, I found the following prices shown below for rechargeable batteries:

  • 24 Energizer Rechargeable Batteries – $78
    • I chose 24 AA batteries because this seemed to a be a good estimate of the number of AA batteries I have in devices at my house at any one time.
  • Battery Recharger – $32
  • Total price = $110
  • From the information shown at the product description, these batteries can be recharged 250 times, and each charge features 2,500 mA-hours of run time.
    • This equals 625,000 mA-hours of total run time.

For regular AA Energizer batteries, I found the following information:

  • 24 Energizer AA batteries = $15
  • 2,450 mA-hours per battery –
  • 625,000 mA-hours / 2,450 mA-hours per battery = 255 batteries total
  • 255 batteries total x $15 / 24 batteries = $159 total

Ok, great! So, finally, we have found that it does make economic sense to purchase rechargeable batteries/be environmentally friendly. Great news! You save $50 in the long run by purchasing rechargeable batteries.

In the next Part of this series, we’ll look at the different ways that you can make your home environmentally friendly and see how the financials stack up! Until the next time!

How about you all? Does the company you work for use recycled paper? Do you use recycled paper at home? Do you use rechargeable batteries?

Are there any incentives that I might have missed reading for using environmentally friendly products?

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Related articles about green products at several of my favorite personal finance blogs:
Why Recycled Paper Costs More – Money Changes Things
Save Money on Toilet Paper – Ultimate Money Blog

About the Author Jacob A Irwin

Hi folks! My name is Jacob. I am the owner and operator of My Personal Finance Journey. I started this blog in January of 2010 and have enjoyed the journey ever since. Since finishing up graduate school in Virginia in 2014, I have been working in biopharmaceutical development in Colorado. You can read more about me and this site here​. Please contact me if you have any questions!

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