The Journey of a Recyclable Product

The process of recycling your garbage, through the segregation of plastics from papers, and rinsing off food from those items that are still reusable, one may wonder where recyclables go as soon as they get collected. The following are some examples of things that take place during the recycling process.

Landfills are the most known place that trash gets delivered to once it leaves (or is collected) from your home, and where your trash is held under the ground to decompose. The landfill allows decomposition to happen naturally, a careful structure made up of plastic, gravel, and clay, is strategically laid, complete with specific drainage systems, to protect the earth from being contaminated.

Some examples of rubbish, such as garden hoses, tires, or rubber shoes get delivered to a waste-to-energy plant where recyclables get baled and then later sold. They get compressed, shaped into cubes, and weighed by the ton, ready for collective usage.

After collecting house-to-house waste, your recyclables undergo further critical sorting and separation done by hand or machine, or even both, before getting sent off to manufacturers that turn them into new products. The whole process of collecting from you and then re-sorting it, to later make these recycled materials valuable commodities, has a big impact on the global market and the environment overall. Not just households, businesses can also contribute. Instead of throwing old paper documents in the general bin, they can go through paper shredding services and be recycled.

It is important to keep in mind that rinsing recyclables goes a long way. This does not mean complicated scrubbing, using soap or water. Rinsing the plastic and glass containers, even with just the dishwater runoff ensures your recyclables will be recognised, and will further make it to the recycling process, rather than left to decompose. Not doing so can contaminate paper, which leads to the recycling facility having no choice but to divert it to landfill instead of being able to recycle it. Rinsing reduces the risk of your recyclables becoming a piece of rubbish contaminating the earth. To understand decomposition means knowing which items break down the fastest.

Recycling reduces the amount of energy used in the re-sorting process as more of it is required when manufacturing products from scratch, rather than recycling clean materials. Products like paper or cardboard are made of naturally derived resources and decompose faster than plastics, glass, and most especially, metal. Additionally, man-made materials and products undergo slow decomposition processes.

The next common question that people tend to be asking is, what exactly causes a pile-up of garbage? The answer is mainly packaging. Whilst the whole world went into lockdown, the average count of 608 million packages per year from the website Amazon alone, saw a significant increase due to the new restrictions, which increased the demand for online shopping. With counts reaching 304 million boxes predicted to end up in the landfill, imagine the other online retailers’ contribution and Amazon’s, combined. Not to mention the single-use plastics and water bottles which collectively are all recyclable. To then re-produce these reusable commodities again means a reduced energy usage, compared to producing more of it entirely from scratch.

Recycling combats the accumulation of rubbish but it has to go to the right facility to be sorted and then reused. Sadly, some countries cannot afford sorting systems and such advanced technology, nor a materials recovery facility.

Not all materials are recyclable, though. For example, hangers for clothes, toys, and grocery bags aren’t always recyclable even if they are composed of recyclable materials. Take-out packaging, bubble wrap, electric cord, gadgets, and dishes, cannot be recycled as well.

Conscious consumerism

Awareness surrounding how much we all contribute to the rubbish count that goes into the landfill is important. Look into what you consume every day. In the morning, you got a venti cup of coffee from Starbucks. Then you used gasoline on the way to work. You use industrial energy at the office through the orders you make on the internet. Not to mention, the paper that you use to write reports. Use more gasoline from work, then have a take-out dinner in plastic boxes. That’s a lot of waste 1 single person created from such a straight-forward daily routine. Now multiply it by 7.5 billion. The results are scary, however now that you are aware of how limitless recycling will impact our future, you can take more precautions.


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Contributed by one of our writers from around the world.