Recycling involves the separation and collection of materials for processing and remanufacturing into new products, and the use of the products to complete the cycle. Much of the aluminum, glass, paper and steel used for packaging today is already recycled. Half the nation's aluminum cans are made from recycled aluminum, and one-quarter of the raw fibers used in the paper industry are from recycled paper products. Glass and steel used in containers can be recycled over and over.
The recycling of aluminum and steel cans, cardboard, glass, newspapers and certain plastics is a growing industry in the American state of Pennsylvania. Already more than 140 Pennsylvania businesses are using recyclables collected by the state's recycling programs to make new products like glass containers, office paper, laundry detergent bottles, steel framing, roofing, and pipes; steel sheet for cars and cans, and much more. Recyclables kept separate from household waste are collected at recycling programs. Collected materials are further sorted and processed for sale to manufacturers in Pennsylvania and other states.
Money earned from the sale of recyclable materials can benefit the individual recycler or help communities and companies offset operating costs for recycling. Recycling also allows some communities to reduce waste disposal costs.
Society's energy consumption is also reduced by recycling. For example, it requires less energy to make a new glass bottle from a recycled one because recycled glass melts at a lower temperature than the raw materials. Recycling also prolongs the life of the glassmaking equipment. Similarly, making an aluminum can from recycled aluminum uses a fraction of the energy needed to make from bauxite ore.
WHAT CAN BE RECYCLED?
Communities which recycle should have curbside collection programs for at least three materials from the following list:
• Clear glass containers
• Colored glass containers
• High-grade office paper
• Corrugated paper (cardboard)
• Aluminum cans
• Steel and bi-metallic cans
Most curbside recycling programs collect four or more of these materials. Also, leaves twigs, and garden trimmings must be separated for composting (a process that produces a mulch). These materials take up valuable space in landfills and can interfere with the burning process in waste incinerators.
Individuals can and should recycle waste oil and automotive batteries that result from do-it-yourself auto maintenance activities.
Glass is completely recyclable and saves precious energy resources. Making products from recycled glass uses less energy than starting from scratch. Recycled glass is made into new beverage bottles, food jars, insulation and other construction materials.
Usually, clear glass containers are recycled into new clear glass products, while colored glass containers are recycled into new colored glass products. For this reason, some recycling programs may ask you to separate glass containers by color. Many curbside recycling programs will collect clear and colored glass containers and separate them for you. Since food in containers can attract insects, rinse them in water. Labels do not need to be removed. Some recycling programs will ask that lids and metal rings around the necks of containers be removed. DO NOT include window glass, ceramics, light bulbs or ovenware, because these items can damage a glass manufacturer's furnace.
Newspapers are commonly recycled into paperboard, new newsprint, insulation and animal bedding products. Recycling newspapers saves valuable space in landfills. Put newspapers in paper bags or tie in bundles with string. In general, you can include any inserts (advertisements, comics) originally delivered with the paper.
OTHER PAPER PRODUCTS
Office paper can be recycled into other writing paper, tissue and towel products. Corrugated paper (commonly known as corrugated cardboard) is used to make new paperboard and corrugated boxes. Some programs are now recycling magazines, catalogs, telephone directories and unwanted "junk" mail. These materials should be handled in the same way as newsprint: store in paper bags or tie in bundles.
Aluminum is the most valuable of household recyclables. Aluminum cans are recycled to produce new aluminum cans. By recycling aluminum cans, you are helping to conserve energy. To make sure that a can is aluminum, use a magnet and see that it DOES NOT stick to the can's top and sides. Rinse the cans to prevent attracting insects and crush them if you need to save space.
Other sources of household aluminum such as clean aluminum foil, clean pie tins, aluminum siding, and the metal frames of aluminum lawn furniture also can be recycled. These items, however, may not be accepted by your local program or may require special handling.
Steel cans are eagerly sought by the steel industry because they are a good source of steel scrap and their tin coating also can be recovered and recycled. A magnet sticks to steel cans. You might want to flatten food and beverage cans to save space. As with other recyclable containers, they should be rinsed. Many recycling programs also collect empty steel aerosol cans and paint cans.
The plastics industry has developed a coding system to help consumers identify different types of plastic resins used in packaging. The codes can be found on the bottom of most plastic containers. Of the many types of plastics used in packaging, two types of plastic from household trash are commonly recycled today:
Plastic Soda Bottles: The material used to make plastic soda bottles (polythylene terephthalate or PET) is recyclable. These bottles are coded with the number 1 and the letters PETE. About 30 percent of all PET bottles sold are recycled into a variety of products. The bottles you recycle could end up as carpet backing, sleeping bag insulation, containers for non-food items, tool handles, auto parts and even clothing. Rinse, remove caps and rings, and flatten bottles to save space.
Plastic Milk Jugs: The plastic used in one-gallon milk and water jugs (high density polyethylene or HDPE) is also recycled to make products such as trash cans, flower pots and plastic pipe. Your recycling program may also accept other HDPE containers such as those sued for laundry products. These containers are coded with the number 2 and the letters HDPE. As with other containers, rinse and flatten them to save space.
Recycling opportunities for other plastic products, including plastic foam cups and plastic cutlery, are expanding. It is important that you recycle only those types of plastics that your community or hauler specifies.
LEAVES AND OTHER YARD DEBRIS
Anyone who has done yard work knows that leaves, twigs and trimmings take up a lot of space. Luckily, leaves and yard debris quickly reduce in volume if composted or allowed to degrade into a rich mulch that is an excellent plant fertilizer. You can compost in your own backyard or at a central composting site in some locations.
People who change their own motor oil produce 11 million gallons of used lubricating oil each year. If this oil is dumped into sewers, soil or streams, it can pollute the water that we drink. Fortunately, used motor oil can be recycled into heating fuel, industrial lubricants and even new motor oil. Your role is simple: store the oil in a sturdy container and take it to an auto repair shop that accepts used oil. To find the shop closest to you, check the list of used oil recyclers in your county.
USED CAR BATTERIES
It's against the law to dispose of a car (lead-acid) battery with your household trash. This type of battery is recyclable and must be taken to a recycling center that takes batteries or an automotive battery retailer in exchange for a new one.