Recycling allows discarded materials to be diverted from the waste stream and begins with separation and collection of recyclable material at the source.
Easily Recycled Materials
Aluminum: Currently (as of 1997) more than 65,000 aluminum beverage cans is recycled every minute.
Iron and steel: In 1989, the U.S. scrap processing industry prepared 60 million tons for recycling, double the amount of paper, non-ferrous metals (aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, etc.), glass, and plastics combined.
Plastics: Currently, three principal types of plastics are being recycled:
- 1. PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) soft drink containers, especially the two-liter bottles, are the most common plastic containers manufactured and discarded today.
- 2. HDPE (high-density polyethylene) containers are used as milk and water jugs, base cups or bottoms of PET soft drink bottles, oil bottles, and detergent and other household cleaner bottles.
- 3. Polystyrene foam is used primarily to make fast-food carry-out containers.
Glass: The use of crushed glass, or cullet, in manufacturing offers economic advantages over virgin materials (sand, soda ash, limestone). Cullet melts at a lower temperature than the raw materials, so manufacturers can reduce energy usage as well as particulate emissions into the atmosphere. Today, 25 percent of any given glass container is made from recycled glass.
Paper: Paper and paperboard constitute the largest proportion of municipal solid waste. More than 30 percent of all the paper and paperboard used in the United States today is being collected and used as either a component to make recycled paper and paperboard or as an export to foreign nations.
Source: Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries