There are thousands of products containing recycled materials, and many of them are in your home. We all understand the advantages of recycling, but have you ever wondered what happens after you’ve placed your blue bin on the curb?
Here is a rundown of the process and how recycling used materials can be remade into new things.
What Is The Recycling Process?
Most municipalities, such as Toronto, have a system called single stream recycling. Single stream recycling means that you can put all of your recyclable materials into the same bin. You don’t have to separate them into different containers. The items are collected from your recycling bins, loaded into a truck and taken to a recycling facility.
At the recycling facility, the materials are sorted and separated by a machine designed to recognize different types of materials. The items are gathered into collections of the same material to be made or remade into different products. Understanding the different types of plastics is essential before you recycle because it will help streamline the process.
The process starts by separating paper from the rest of the material. Paper items such as newspaper, office paper, cardboard and other paper items are divided into one pile—heavier items like glass, plastic and metal drop-down to a lower conveyor belt and travel onwards.
Certain metals such as iron, tin and steel are gathered with a giant magnet, removed from the recycling and placed in a large bin. Metals such as aluminum are not magnetic, and they are separated into other containers.
Once the recyclable materials are sorted into different types, they are individually recycled or remade into new products.
What Products Are Made From Recycled Paper?
The impact of paper waste can be seen across many industries. But the recycled paper has made an impact. Papers are separated by type (newsprint, magazines, cardboard, etc.) and transported to a paper mill for processing. At the paper mill, the paper is shredded. Next, it’s loaded into a machine that removes the ink through a chemical process.
Recycled magazines are essential in the recycling process. Their high clay content helps remove inks from the paper before being made into new products. The de-inked paper is then mixed up with water into a pulp slurry.
The pulp slurry is placed into a washing machine that removes all the impurities such as glue or string mixed up in the paper. The resulting paper is pressed into new rolls.
Recycled office paper can become:
- New paper
- Toilet paper
- Facial tissues
- Computer paper
Newspaper can turn into:
- Paper plates
- Other newspaper
Paper that is too old to be made into new paper can become other products such as:
- Building insulation
- Berry boxes
- Kitty litter
- Egg cartons
Corrugated cardboard can be remade into:
- Paper bags
- New cardboard
- Paper board (for cereal and other food boxes)
What Are The Uses For Recycled Metal?
Metals such as steel, iron and tin are valuable materials.
Steel has the highest rate of recycling of any material and can be recycled indefinitely with no degradation. Over 88 percent of steel is recycled into new products – stainless steel is 100% recyclable. It can be recycled into kitchenware, appliances, medical equipment or used for various construction or automotive industry applications.
After leaving the recycling centre, metals are melted down at extremely high heat (1538 Celsius). This temperature causes the metal to liquefy into molten metal, cast into moulds and made into metal ingots. These metal ingots are sold to manufacturers where they can be remade into almost anything, such as:
- Car parts
- Bicycle frames
- New ‘tin’ cans
What Is Recycled Aluminum Used For?
Aluminum is another product that can be recycled indefinitely without any reduction in the quality of the materials. There is a high demand for aluminum, so most cans you throw into the recycling are turned into new products in weeks. In fact, 50,000 aluminum cans are produced every minute.
The separated aluminum is taken to a processing plant, and the cans are shredded. These pieces are melted into sheets and made into new cans and aluminum foil. Aluminum is also made into car parts, airplane parts and the bodies of tractor-trailer trucks.
Using recycled aluminum to make new cans saves 95% of the energy from mining the resources and producing the cans from ore.
What Can Glass Be Recycled Into?
Glass is another material that can be reused and recycled indefinitely to make new glass products. It is far more energy-efficient and easier to make glass products from recycled glass than raw materials. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without losing quality or purity.
The glass arrives at the reclaiming facility in all kinds of different colours, shapes and sizes. These are crushed down into tiny pieces called cullet or melted down to be formed into new containers. Cullet has smooth edges and can be used in making bricks or for use in paving surfaces.
Uses For Recycled Plastics
Plastic can be a little more complicated to recycle than other materials. This complexity is because different plastics are made from different types of resin. Take a look at the bottom of a plastic container, and you will see an identifying number. This number tells you what kind of plastic makes up the container. The different types of plastic cannot be mixed.
The plastic is sorted by type, and then each type is sent off to a processing facility. At the processing facility, the plastic is fed into a grinder and chopped into plastic flakes. These flakes are melted down into a polymer that manufacturers can use to make new plastic products.
The most common form of plastic is #1, and it is found in pop and water bottles. These types of plastic can be remade into:
- Polar fleece
- Sleeping bag and jacket insulation
- More water and pop bottles.
Did you know: it takes about ten bottles to make enough fibre for a new t-shirt or 63 bottles to make a fleece sweater?
This type of plastic includes laundry detergent bottles, juice and milk jugs. The plastic is lightweight and sturdy and made from a different material than pop bottles. Once sorted, ground up and processed into pellets, these kinds of plastic can become:
- Plastic buckets
- Plastic lumber
- Outdoor play equipment
- New juice and milk jugs
Bottle caps that go on your water or pop bottle can also be recycled into many valuable products such as:
- Car batteries
- Garden rakes
- Storage containers
- Reusable shopping bags
- New bottle caps
While it may look far from environmentally friendly, foam packaging is mainly made of air and can be recycled. It can be remade into insulation, building products for home renovations and new styrofoam packaging.