A Look at How Materials Are Sorted, Recycled, and Reused

Have you ever thought about what happens to your plastic bottle or glass jar after you put it in the recycling bin? Here’s an inside look at the recycling process.

After you recyclables are collected from your bins, materials are sorted at recycling centers with the use of automated sorting systems that use lasers or air jets. These systems use optimized algorithms to identify items by shape and size so they can effectively sort recycled goods. Once recycled materials are sorted, they may be recycled further or made into another final product. 

This is done through different processes like densification, pelletization, and compounding. For example, recycled paper is compressed to make it easier to store and transport. The recycled paper does not lose its strength because the fibers of recycled papers are more tightly bonded than natural fibers. Recycled plastics may also be recycled into food-grade plastics that can be used for packaging purposes. Plastics recycled in the US only account for two percent of plastic waste produced annually; however, by increasing recycling rates for plastic these numbers could rise significantly.

Many recycled materials are reused in the production process instead of recycled further. For example, recycled steel can be reused in construction. Recycling processes are not only helpful to the environment because of how they reduce waste, they are also used because many recycled materials are cheaper than their original counterparts. By reducing costs on final products, there are less expensive alternatives available for consumers that want quality but don’t want to pay top dollar for it.

While metals and plastics may be easier to reuse in new products in their current state, other materials like paper and wood often need to be broken down more in order to still be useful. Midwest Companies is one organization that engages in this process by recycling old construction and demolition materials, especially by grinding used wood down to make an environmentally friendly aggregate material used for landfill roads.

By understanding how recycled materials are sorted, recycled, and reused, you can make a real impact on the environment. A little effort can go a long way towards preserving the planet.