Recycling Symbol Mobius Strip — Trees/CO2/Oxygen/Gasoline Burn

The Möbius strip has been the universal recycling symbol since the early 1970s. It symbolizes an endless cycle of recycling.


When you see the Möbius strip on a product, it means that:

  • it can be recycled because it was manufactured with recyclable materials OR
  • it was made from recycled materials and can be recycled.

However, it doesn't mean that the product will actually be recycled.

The purpose of the Möbius strip is to inform the end users and encourage them to recycle.

The Möbius strip does not provide information about what material the packaging is made of BUT ON PLASTICS, THE NUMBER IN THE MIDDLE DOES.




The United States is the #1 trash=producing country in the world, generating 40% of the worlds waste but only recycles 35% of its waste.


Ten countries recycle more than 50% of their waste. See page 6 of the pdf. The US Population is approx. 330 million people, only 4% of the world’s population. 


Your job is to read these statistics with your parents and determine whether your family is recycling at the optimal rate. Can you do better to save the planet?




The US trashes 1.6 billion pens each year that goes into trash. How many pens are thrown away per person in the US? 1.6 billion divided by 330 million is a little less than 5 pens per person.


One tree produces approximately 170,000 pens and the US cuts down 8 million trees per year to produce pencils which is 1,360,000,000,000. We spent a lot of time using the algorithm of multiplying the non-zero numbers and then tacking on the zeros cast away. In this example, 17x8=136 and tac on 10 zeros.


Every year, the United States generates approximately 230 million tons of "trash"--about 3.8 pounds per person per day. About one-third of it is recycled; the rest is incinerated or buried in landfills. With a little forethought, we could reuse or recycle more than 70 percent of the landfilled waste, which includes valuable materials such as glass, metal, and paper. This would reduce the demand on virgin sources of these materials and eliminate potentially severe environmental, economic, and public health problems.


In 2015, Nature, leading scientific publication, reported that a team of 38 scientists finds that the planet is home to 3.04 trillion trees, blowing away the previously estimate of 400 billion. The study estimates that humans and other causes, such as wildfires and pest outbreaks, are responsible for the loss of 15.3 billion trees each year — although approx. 5 billion of those grow back each year, so the net loss is more like 10 billion annually. 


At this rate, dividing 3 trillion by 10 billion we get 300 years until the Earth has zero trees. We need to reduce the number of trees cut down each year and increase the number of trees planted each year to change this course.


In one year, a mature tree will absorb more than 48 lbs.of CO2 from the atmosphere. Since trees pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as they grow, and cutting or burning them down releases that carbon again. So that means that deforestation is making global warming worse — and it also means that if we were living on an Earth with close to 6 trillion trees, rather than 3 trillion, climate change would be less severe.


Also, how many trees are there per person today? (2019 world population is 7.8 billion).


Almost 20 lbs. of CO2 is produced from burning one gallon of gasoline.


In 2019, about 570 billion gallons (or about 13.6 billion barrels1) of finished motor gasoline were consumed in the world, an average of about 1.56 billion gallons (or  37.3 million barrels) per day. (There are 42 U.S. gallons in a barrel).


How many pounds of CO2 are produced from burning all of the gallons of gasoline each year?


Since a mature tree absorbs 48 pounds of CO2 each year, do we have enough trees on Earth to absorb the amount of CO2 produced each year by humans?


If we lose 10 billion trees per year, at what point will the number of trees no longer be able to absorb enough CO2 produced by burning gasoline assuming no increase in amount of gasoline burned?


It’s important to note that the study’s estimates critically rely on the definition of “tree” — the study calls it a woody plant that, at breast height, has a stem that is at least 10 centimeters in diameter.


How many trees were on Earth at the beginning of human civilization?


Since the number of trees has fallen by close to 50% since the beginning of human civilization, we must have had close to 6 trillion trees.


The Nature study provides a list of the countries of the world, their population sizes, and their numbers of trees. The results show sharply different tree-per-person ratios around the world.


The nation with the single largest number of trees was Russia, with 641 billion, and 4,461 trees per person based on 2014 population estimates — statistics underscoring the the vastness of Siberia’s boreal forests.


The U.S. had 319 million people in 2014, but 228 billion trees. That’s 716 trees per person. Brazil had 301 billion trees (1,494 per person), Canada 318 billion (8,953 per person), and China 139 billion (102 trees per person). Among highly populous countries, India (population, 1.267 billion) had a tree population of only 35 billion, leading to just 28 trees per person.



Recycle_Symbol_Mobius_Strip_TreesCO2OxygenPopulation.pdf4.52 MB