What happens to all those recyclable items after they are collected?
Recycling is the process of making used or unwanted products into new remanufactured products. In other words, recycling is the art of making waste into a resource!
There are different processes for recycling different items:
The paper is taken to a recycling plant where it is separated into different types and grades. The separated paper is then washed with soapy water to remove inks, plastic film, staples and glue. This mixture is then mixed with water to create a slurry. By adding different materials to the slurry, different paper products, such as cardboard, newsprint, or office paper, can be created.
When plastic is recycled, it is sorted into different types and colors, filtered and sifted of contaminants, then chopped and melted into pellets or made into fibers. These materials can be used to make fleece fabrics, durable construction materials, molded furniture or insulation.
When metals are recycled, metal products (such as aluminum cans) are chopped up, heated to remove the paint coating, then heated again to melt and mix. After being filtered and treated, the molten metal is poured into ingots, which are rolled into flat sheets and ready to be made into new metal products.
Glass is collected, sorted by color then washed to remove any impurities. The glass is then crushed and mixed with sand, soda ash and limestone. This mixture is then melted and molded into new products such as bottles and jars.
Electronic waste, or e-waste (cell phones, laptops, computers, batteries, etc), is dismantled into various parts (metal frames, power supplies, circuit boards, plastics) either by hand or automated shredding equipment. These recovered components are then collected and sent to various facilities for further recycling processing. Leaded glass from CRTs is reused in car batteries, ammunition, and lead wheel weights. Copper, gold, palladium, silver and tin are sold to smelters for recycling. Hazardous smoke and gases captured from the recycling of e-waste are contained and treated to mitigate environmental threat.
Textiles and Clothing
Textiles and clothing are collected then sorted into type and color. The textiles are shredded into fibers and blended with other fibers. The blended mixture is cleaned and spun for weaving or knitting. Fibers can also be compressed for mattress production. Some textiles are simply shredded to make filling material for car insulation, roofing felts, loudspeaker cones, panel linings and furniture padding.
For specialized polyester based materials, buttons and zippers are removed. Then, the remaining material is cut into small pieces. These small pieces are granulated and formed into small pellets. The pellets are broken down and turned into polyester chips. These chips are melted and spun into new filament fiber used to make new polyester fabrics.