The recycling process begins with the collection of materials. A waste management company collects the recyclables with trucks from people’s homes, from dumpsters at commercial facilities like office buildings and warehouses, or from industrial facilities. These recyclables are then taken to a recovery center for further processing.
Keeping used materials out of landfills by repurposing them for new uses is one of the best ways to reduce our environmental impact and conserve scarce resources.
An efficient recycling process creates a way for residential, commercial, and industrial locations to dispose of, sort, and reuse materials like:
- Ferrous & Non-Ferrous Metal
- Plastic & Rubber
- Construction & Demolition Waste
- Paper & Cardboard
For larger recyclables, shredders, pulverizers, granulators, and other size reduction machines are necessary to break down materials into a smaller and more manageable size. Additionally, in some areas, recyclables have to be pre-sorted, but to encourage recycling many areas are now accepting unsorted materials. For this reason, many types of separation technologies have been developed to assist in efficient and accurate material sorting. Vibratory feeders, for example, can separate items based on weight to remove heavier objects like metals and glass. Other separators, like magnetic separators and screens, can also be used to methodically sort out each type of material into its own group.
After the materials have been separated, other processing may have to occur based on the type of material to prepare them for reuse. The materials are then put through a baling machine that compresses them into manageable bales or blocks. These bales can then be loaded on a truck and shipped to factories where the materials are reused in new products. For example, a bale of crushed metal cans could be shipped to a facility where the metal is melted down and then molded back into brand new cans.
If the material is taken to a mixed waste center, the waste has to be separated from the recoverable material. Most facilities are able to recover about 30% of the material during this separation, but the goal is always to raise that number.
When recycling industry experts talk about the “recovery rate”, they are referring to the percentage of materials that they are able to recycle and keep out of a landfill. Obviously, there will always be some waste that is not reusable, but continuing to raise our recovery rate is key to preserving the environment and conserving our resources. Many people do not realize that plastic is a limited resource, even though so many things are made from it. That’s exactly why it is so important to recycle as much as possible.
It also takes far less energy to create a product from recycled material than it does to make it from raw materials. For example, it takes 88% less energy to make a plastic water bottle from recycled plastic than it does using a complete process with new plastic. The statistics are almost as drastic for cardboard, wood and glass products as well. Reusing materials is an easy way to improve efficiency and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses.