Extracting and processing raw resources (wood, oil, ore) to make usable materials (paper, plastic, metal) requires a lot of energy. Recycling often saves energy because the products being recycled usually require much less processing to turn them into usable materials.
Exactly how much energy is saved depends on the material in question. Let’s take two examples: glass and aluminum.
In 2017, total energy use per person (“per capita consumption”) in the United States was 300 million British thermal units (Btu).1,2 32% of this was from industrial use, 29% from transportation, 20% from residential use, and 18% from commercial use.1 Per-person energy use in the United States decreased by 10.7% from 2007 to 2017.3
For comparison, here is the 2015 per-person energy use (in million Btu) for a selection of other countries:4
"In 2015, world total primary energy consumption was about 542 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), and U.S. primary consumption was about 97 quadrillion Btu, equal to 18% of world total primary energy consumption."
"Different fuels emit different amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in relation to the energy they produce when burned. To analyze emissions across fuels, compare the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of energy output or heat content.
Pounds of CO2 emitted per million British thermal units (Btu) of energy for various fuels:
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the United States has the geologic formations to store approximately 3,000 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide.1 For comparison, the United States produces around 5.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year.2 Humans worldwide currently produce around 34 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide per year.3