An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish

The world in which we live has gone through many changes. There was a time where vast forests of giant, ancient trees were leveled for their lumber without the slightest thought towards reforestation. Growing up I often heard ad campaigns pleading that you don’t litter and recycle. Under false assumption, I presumed that someone smarter than me had locked down the process and was able to recycle everything thrown into the bins. Apparently there is a lot more that goes into it. We need to do our part to assist with recycling plants to help preserve our natural resources and prevent the landfills from being overpopulated with potentially recyclable material.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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The first newspaper recycling program launched in Maryland in the 1970’s.

While recycling has come a long way since then, there is still a long way to go with understanding the recycling process and truly playing our part.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Sorting your aluminum, glass, paper and plastic is important.

With the approximately 10,000 communities that enjoy curbside recycling, it should be easy to help out. You can do so by sorting and placing recyclables in the appropriate bins rather than allowing them to carelessly make their way to the landfill.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Curbside collection of your recyclables is a convenience that should not be taken for granted.

Just think about the people who have to travel several miles to recycle, but still take the time and exert the effort because they care about creating a sustainable ecosystem for future generations.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Once the recyclables are collected, the real work begins.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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All that is collected has to be sorted and processed.

Properly sorted recyclables will collect greater profits on the open market.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Mounds and mounds of recyclable materials.

The foreman oversees the workers.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Human workers remove large objects, trash and plastic bags that can clog the machine.

Plastic bags should be recycled in their appropriate containers, often located at supermarkets that you originally received the bags.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Some items cannot be recycled and must be sent to the landfill.

Dirty pizza boxes, cans with food in them, and certain plastics (like PVC pipe) are among those that cannot be recycled.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Machines help to sort and bail the recyclables.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Even paper has to be sorted by type, white office paper, newspaper, and magazines, for proper future use.

Then, it’s compressed into large bales for easy transport. Once the paper reaches the mill, the used paper is shredded and mixed with water to create a pulp. Then, it’s put through the same process as virgin material to create new office paper, newspaper, toilet paper, or paper towels.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Corrugated cardboard is one of America’s most recycled materials.

Over 80 percent actually comes from the landfill. Cardboard goes through similar process to other paper. Then, it almost always gets formed into new cardboard boxes.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Glass is sorted by color, then washed to remove impurities.

After being washed, the glass is crushed and sold to companies that melt it down and to manufacture new glass containers.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Some facilities lump all glass together and crush it into a material called “mixed cullet.”

The cullet is used in different applications, like a replacement for sand in sports turf, landscaping, brick manufacturing, septic tank draining fields, and paved surfaces.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Aluminum cans are crushed and compacted into bales.

These bales are transported to processing plants where they are shredded, melted down and mixed with raw aluminum materials where they can be molded into new products like new cans and aluminum foil.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Plastics are sorted by the identification number within the triangle on the bottom of the bottles.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Plastic bottles are also bailed and shredded, then melted down into a pellets.

The pellets get sent to companies that use them to make new items like fleece, carpeting, and artificial lumber for furniture and decking.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Most of America’s recyclables are exported to places like China for further processing.

China is starting to refuse low quality recyclables and charging a refusal fee that they call the “Green Fence.” Low quality recyclables include items with too much food on them, excessive trash or poorly sorted items. To retain a larger portion, America is starting to take the extra steps needed to clean and process the waste.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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What happens to recycled batteries? Why is proper disposal so important?

Batteries have to be handled very carefully because of the chemicals and metal they contain. Alkaline/zinc carbon batteries are smashed so their components can be separated out. A similar process is used for other types of batteries, but alkaline/zinc carbon are the only batteries that are 100 percent recycled.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Why recycle printer cartridges?

Some printer companies have stepped up to offer domestic recycling. Cartridges sent back are emptied, disassembled, and the materials separated. The plastic is then shredded and used to make new cartridges instead of filling the landfills.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Recycling in America has come a very long way.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Learning to clean out your recyclable materials will drastically help products to be properly converted and prevent them from becoming a permanent structure wasting space in a landfill.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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If you cannot recycle certain items, find out whether or not the original manufacturing company will take back the spent items.

An Inside Look At What Really Happens To The Stuff You Recycle From Start To Finish
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Recycling used products isn’t the only way to become a part of the recycling movement.

To ensure that items are properly recycled, you will also want to make sure that you’re purchasing items made with recycled materials. This will help create a demand to ensure recycling will remain a vital part of our society for years to come.

Now, I’ve never really considered myself to be an ultra environmentally conscientious person. I don’t litter and recycle when it’s convenient. After this little bit of education, I find myself more aware of the need for every individual to make more of an effort and take the steps needed to further increase our trash conversion rate. I highly encourage you to take these steps and heighten your environmental consciousness. It may just make you feel like a better person.

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