I was preparing yesterday for my spot on Radio National Summer Breakfast with Waleed Aly and I came across this wonderful bit of research from Imperial College, London – Go to work on a Christmas card. The study claimed that if every UK resident handed in their cards and wrapping paper the country could produce enough bioethanol to fuel a double decker bus (very British) to the Moon and back 20 times over. Impressive stuff.
That got me thinking about the old Cards for Ark program that was run by Planet Ark several years ago. It encouraged Australians to recycle their Christmas cards by placing them in special bins at shopping centres. I discovered that it was wound up in 2007 due to everyone (well at least 90%) having curbside recycling.
It still didn’t stop me thinking about how much bioethanol Australia could produce if we all handed in our Christmas cards and used wrapping paper. Time for some ‘back of the envelop’ maths.
The ICL study claims the UK accumulates 1.5 billion cards and 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper. This could be converted into between 5 and 12 million litres of bioethanol. According to the last Planet Ark estimate, Australia amasses 260 million cards a year. Assuming the fraction of wrapping paper is the same, this would equate to around 1 to 2 million litres of bioethanol. That’s not bad considering we currently produce 250 million litres a year from grain and sugar cane. Although it’s much smaller than Brazil’s 26 billion litres/year and the US with 50 billion litres/year.
After I mentioned this to my wife while we were driving to the shops this afternoon, my nearly 4 year old son started singing this song from Roary the Racing Car. In English of course. Enjoy.