In Out of the box

Have you ever wondered what happens to the paper, glass, and other recyclables that you toss in your blue recycling box? Many of the products we use every day come from recycled materials. Did you know that plastic beverage bottles are recycled into ski jacket insulation?

 

For the packaging industry specifically, we need the resources to last as long as possible to sustain future generations so refining the recycling process and making it accessible for the end consumer is of particular interest.

 

After we send our recyclables it’s common to wonder if the waste is actually going to a recycling plant or if it is just going to a landfill. Many blogs have set out to debunk this myth. In this article were going to focus on the process that happens after recycled items arrive at a recycling plant.

 

With technological advancements single-stream (meaning all recycled items combined, versus separated) collection has made it easier for people to recycle. Recycling trucks pick up all of the recycling waste in one scoop and take it to a material recovery facility.  It is here that the materials are sorted through a network of magnets, lights, fans, sensors, conveyers, and electric currents that were created to separate and sort various containers and materials. There is also a staff to sort out contaminants.

 

Every material type has a special process for treatment to transition the leftovers into materials that can be used for new products. For examples, cardboard and packaging has to be cleared of ink, glass has to be crushed to be heated into molten glass, and plastic has to be sorted by number, chopped into flakes, and melted down into a polymer.

 

Recyclables are worth a large value, especially in bulk, so the next step is to distribute the recycling waste to companies that exist to convert recycled matter and turn it into new products. This process in itself is a large industry with the total scrap valued at almost $100 billion dollars per year, and growing.

 

Examples of recycled products include egg cartons, construction paper, packaging products, corrugated boxes, kitty litter, counter top, paper plates, newspapers, paper bags, computer paper, car parts, new cans, appliances, bike parts, cans, jars and bottles, back packs, carpet, insulation, Frisbees, stadium seats, and so much more.

 


 

Learn More

 

http://www.isri.org/docs/default-source/recycling-industry/facts-and-figures-fact-sheet—recycling.pdf?sfvrsn=4

http://www.maine.gov/dep/waste/recycle/whatrecyclablesbecome.html#newspaper

https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/where-do-recycled-items-go

https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/recycling-reality.htm

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