Your recycling bin is just the beginning of the journey. It may seem like a fairy tale that something as simple as a plastic bottle can go to a magical, faraway place and end up returning home as something else. A place where items are given a second chance to become an even better version of themselves, a place like the Land of Oz. There are a lot of turns in the recycling road, but it’s a trip worth taking!
Ease on Down
Recycling is a way to breathe new life into a wide variety of items that you use in your everyday life. Recyclables are used to make many different products. For example, aluminum cans are melted down and recast into new aluminum products, while paper and newspaper are mixed and used to make new newspapers, paperboard, gift boxes, and animal bedding. A fun way to take a look at the recycling journey can be found at iwanttoberecycled.org where there are resources for a variety of items and what they can become if they’re recycled.
Keep the Line Running
The journey begins as your bin heads down the road to a materials recovery facility where recyclables are sorted and separated into different materials. Dem-Con Materials Recovery has a great video on impressive machines like cardboard screens, fiber cabins, fiber balers, and magnetic separators and what they do to separate different materials. These facilities handle an immense number of items every day, and what you put into your bin makes a huge difference in how each day goes. Plastic bags and other items that may have been mistakenly placed in curbside bins can contaminate recyclables and clog machines. Know What to Throw to help keep the line running fine!
Recycling Keeps Moving
Recycled materials can be found in more products than you think. Clothing, construction materials, packaging, and office supplies can all be the end of the journey for recycled materials. Here are some ways common recyclables get turned into new products:
- Glass bottles – These can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing any quality. They are used to make new glass containers. Just remember to not recycle drinking glasses or ceramics because they are made from differently treated glass that may contain chemicals.
- Milk jugs – Plastic bottles and jugs can be used for clothing like fleece jackets or maybe even your new favorite chair. The Minnesota-based company By the Yard uses them to make outdoor furniture.
- Plastic bags – They cause problems at facilities, but when recycled at drop-off locations, plastic bags can be made into furniture, fences, decks, and shopping carts.
- Cardboard and paper – Paper is easy to recycle, and cardboard and paper packaging can be used to make new packaging.
Go a Step Further When Working on your House
You ensure that your everyday life stays environmentally friendly, but don’t forget to do the same when you take on the big projects. If you are starting a construction project or renovation, use green techniques and look for the most energy-efficient options. Only get enough materials for the job, and dispose of items like paint, carpet and scrap metal properly at drop-off facilities. There are ways to recycle lots of common construction and demolition waste items so before you build, take steps to know what materials you will use and how they will affect the environment.
Donate or Reuse what You Can’t Recycle
You are helping the recycling road by keeping items that don’t belong in your curbside bin out, reducing what you acquire and reusing what you can. Items like ceramics, dishes and drinking glasses can’t be placed in the bin, but can be donated or resold. Donated items take a whole new road, which can include resale, outlets, or auction. Also, if the items are not properly taken care of, donated items may end up as garbage. Take good care of your belongings from beginning to end to be sure that they end up on the shortest road to proper reuse or recycling.