Curious about how true recycling processes work? Here’s an overview to get you started:
Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. Materials such as glass, metal, plastics, and paper are collected, separated, and sent to facilities that process them into new materials or products.
Step 1. Collection and Processing: Collection of recyclables varies from community to community. There are four primary collection methods: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs.
After collection, recyclables are delivered to a materials recovery facility (MRF). At the MRF, materials are sorted into separate marketable commodities for manufacturing. Recyclables are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and prices for the materials change and fluctuate with the market.
Step 2. Manufacturing: Once cleaned and separated, the recyclables are ready to undergo the second part of the recycling loop. More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with total or partial recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers and paper towels; aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers; steel cans; and plastic laundry detergent bottles. Recycled materials also are used in innovative applications such as recovered glass in roadway asphalt (glassphalt) or recovered plastic in carpeting, park benches, and pedestrian bridges.
Step 3. Purchasing Recycled Products: Purchasing recycled products completes the recycling loop. By “buying recycled,” governments, businesses, and individual consumers each play an important role in making the recycling process a success. As consumers demand environmental products, manufacturers will continue to meet that demand by producing high quality recycled products.
Reference: US Environmental Protection Agency. Municipal Solid Waste page. 20 Dec. 2007. http://www.epa.gov/msw/reduce.htm