CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
Recycling has economical and environmental impact which affects us all.
The Recycling Process
Recycling is the collecting and processing of materials that can be used in the manufacturing of new products using the recycled material. The purchasing of recycled products creates a circle or loop that ensures the overall success and value of recycling.
Step 1. Collection, Sorting and Processing
Collecting recyclables varies from community to community, but there are four primary methods: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs.
Regardless of the method used to collect the recyclables, the next leg of their journey is usually the same. Recyclables are sent to a materials recovery facility to be sorted and prepared into marketable commodities for manufacturing. This is done using a variety of methods, including use of magnets, lasers and hand sort. Recyclables are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and prices for the materials change and fluctuate with the market.
Step 2. Manufacturing
Once cleaned and separated, the recyclables are ready to undergo the second part of the recycling loop. More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with total or partial recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers and paper towels; aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers; steel cans; and plastic laundry detergent bottles. Recycled materials also are used in innovative applications such as recovered glass in roadway asphalt (glassphalt) or recovered plastic in carpeting, park benches, and pedestrian bridges.
Step 3. Purchasing Recycled Products
Purchasing recycled products completes the recycling loop. By “buying recycled,” governments, as well as businesses and individual consumers, play an important role in making the recycling process a success. As consumers demand more environmentally sound products, manufacturers will continue to meet that demand by producing high-quality recycled products.
Recycling Facts and Figures
Twenty years ago, only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States, which collected several materials at the curb. By 2006, almost 8,660 curbside programs had sprouted up across the nation. As of 2005, about 500 materials recovery facilities had been established to process the collected materials.
Today, the United States recycles 32.5 percent of its waste, a rate that has almost doubled during the past 15 years. The majority of the refuse being recycled is paper followed by plastic bottles and aluminum cans. However, only about 30% of these products are presently being recycled. Electronics are the fastest-growing portion of America’s trash – more than 3.2 million tons of electronic waste is buried in U.S. landfills each year. The average cathode ray tube inside a PC monitor contains about five pounds of lead oxide powder embedded in the glass. In the U.S. there are more than 200 million computers in homes and workplaces. That is equivalent to about 16 million tons of solid waste and 1.3 million tons of toxic lead. As well, every month approximately 100,000 pounds of CDs become outdated, useless, or unwanted.
How is recycling profitable for recyclers?
First off, there must be a market for the material. Without a market, there is no reason to collect a material for recycling. If a community collection program is accepting a wide variety of materials for recycling but no one wants it, then there is a lot of wasted time and effort in getting it clean and sorted. The reason that corrugated cardboard, newspaper, #1 and #2 plastics, etc., are commonly collected materials, is that there is a recycling infrastructure—processors and manufacturers—who want these materials and make them into products that are sold for profit. Without this infrastructure—or market–recycling cannot be sustained. That is why it is so important that consumers, whether they are buying for their homes or businesses, buy recycled products whenever possible. Only by creating a need for recycled material will markets grow for collected recyclable materials.
If there is a system in place for using collected materials, the next thing that is needed is having enough volume of a material to make it worth collecting and transporting to market. Recycling has a bottom line that goes beyond the environmental benefits. The more uncontaminated material there is, the more likely there will be a system in place to process it and make it into a usable product. The materials must be relatively easy to separate and there must be a demand for the resulting recycled products.
What do those numbers on the bottom of plastic containers mean?
The numbers have to do with the type of plastic being used. Some plastics can be easily recycled while others can’t. The Society of the Plastics Industry came up with the numbering system to identify the various types of plastic being used. Let’s start with #1 plastics made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Soda bottles are made from PET along with a variety of other food bottles and trays. PET can be melted and drawn out into long fibers and recycled into deli and bakery trays, carpets, clothing and textiles carpets, fiberfill for jackets, and shopping bags. Manufacturers want recycled PET and buy it.
Milk and water jugs are made from number #2 high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Clear HDPE is easily be made into new containers. Recycled HDPE can become bottles for laundry products, recycling bins, bags, motor oil bottles, decking and marine pilings. The colored HDPE (liquid detergent, and shampoo bottles) is generally recycled into plastic lumber. Those tough mailing envelopes are also a form of HDPE but are not recycled. The tops to juice and milk containers are made using an injection molding process. Those materials are incompatible with the recycling process.
Vinyl or polyvinyl chloride # 3 could be recycled. It is used for clear food packaging and plumbing pipe. However, collecting #3 plastics for recycling is usually cost-prohibitive because there are not enough items made from the material to warrant recycling it into new products. They are generally used once and tossed. However, recycled vinyl can become playground equipment, film and air bubble cushioning.
Low-density polyethylene # 4 (LDPE) is typically grocery bags. Some of these bags are recycled into new bags or plastic lumber. Recycled LDPE can be used to manufacture bags, shrink film and compost bins. However, transporting it for recycling often uses more energy than producing a virgin product. Unless there is a recycling factory close by, LDPE usually ends up in the landfill. Consider using canvas shopping bags.
Polypropylene (# 5 PP) is made into yogurt, margarine, and other food containers. Recycled PP can be used in automobile parts, carpets, battery casings, textiles, industrial fibers and films used for packaging products such as candy.
Then there’s #6 Polystyrene (PS). Solid PS is made into compact disc jackets, eating utensils, and take-out food containers. The expanded PS know as Styrofoam is used for packing materials, coffee cups, meat trays, and egg cartons. Recycled PS can be used in products including video cassettes and cases. The cost of moving used Styrofoam is often higher than making it from virgin oil. When Styrofoam ends up in local creeks and rivers, birds and fish think it is food and it clogs up their digestive tracks, ending their lives.
The last of the labeled plastics is #7, usually lids and imported containers made from mixed resins known as OTHER.
So here’s the overview as to what can easily be recycled:
# 1, 2 (narrow neck bottles), 4, 5 and 6. However, acceptable plastic recycling differs depending upon where you live. You should contact your local city or trash service to find out which plastic they accept.
What can be recycled?
Foam packaging (turned into a variety of products such as carpet padding and wood substitute moldings)
The proliferation of CFL lamps has done wonders for saving energy but has created problems regarding disposal. The CFLs contain mercury and are therefore toxic to ground and water supplies. They can be recycled at Home Depot or Ikea stores.
Paper or Plastic or?
Ideally, neither. Bring your own bags to go food shopping, if possible. Try leaving bags (canvas work well) in the trunk of your car so you don’t forget them. If you don’t, ask for the bag that you know will be recycled. Historically, people are about four times more likely to recycle a paper bag than a plastic one. Plastic bags that aren’t recycled create a special problem in coastal areas where they poison or strangle marine life and birds. More than 60% of all debris in the oceans is plastic, breaking up into smaller, more dangerous pieces and taking hundreds of years to fully decay. Paper bags have their issues as well. Paper bags are usually not from 100% recycled material, requiring pulp from timber. If the paper bag is not recycled, it will generate greater carbon emissions during incineration than would a plastic bag, and if landfilled, greater methane emission.
What is e-waste?
Every year, 20 to 50 million metric tons of electronic equipment waste (e-waste) are generated worldwide. Four million computers are discarded annually in China alone.
In the U.S. about 70% of all disposed computers and monitors end up in landfills. Combined with disposed cellphones and other electronic gear, that’s more than 2.6 million tons of e-waste disposed into landfills by Americans in 2005. The toxins inherent in electronics included lead and mercury, which can find their way into groundwater and the air. An old TV set can have as much as 10 pounds of lead. Printed circuit boards contain primarily plastic and copper, and most have small amounts of chromium, lead solder, nickel, and zinc. In addition, many electronic products have batteries that often contain nickel, cadmium, and other heavy metals. Recyclers covet the microprocessor boards of computers for the valuable minerals they contain such as gold and silver. Leaded glass can be easily separated and the glass recycled. More recently, e-waste is being shipped to third world countries where lead and other minerals are being extracted using methods that create health risks to the extractors. In recent years, China has become a big importer of used printer cartridges where they extract the last few drops of ink, leaving the empty cartridges to the landfills.
To find an e-waste drop off location near you visit the EPA site or http://www.ewaste-dropoff.com. In California, contact greenmouse.com to unload any unwanted e-waste.
What is being done? The European Union has limited the flow of e-waste since 2003 and requires greener manufacturing. Unfortunately, the U.S. does not require recycling of e-waste, but nine states to date have some legislation requiring manufacturers to take back products under certain conditions.
What is composting?
Composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials. It is a way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal. Composting occurs naturally when leaves pile up on the forest floor and begin to decay. Eventually, the rotting leaves are returned to the soil, where living roots can finish the recycling process by reclaiming the nutrients from the decomposed leaves.
Composting can be simply building a compost pile in a convenient spot on the ground. Others build bins from materials such as recycled pallets, or two-by-fours and plywood or purchase a bins at the local hardware store. Piling food scraps and using worms and air to speed up the decomposing process, results in an earthy, dark, crumbly substance (humus) that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil.
Composting is not a new idea. Some scientists have speculated that as early peoples dumped food wastes in piles near their camps, the wastes rotted and food plants sprouted from the seeds. Today, the use of composting to turn organic wastes into a valuable resource is expanding rapidly in the United States and in other countries, as landfill space becomes scarce and expensive, and as people become more aware of the impacts they have on the environment.
Apple Computer’s recycling partnership with the city of Cupertino, California, has recycled more than 340 tons of electronics. All electronics products are accepted free of charge, regardless of manufacturer.
The City of San Francisco collects spent cooking oil from restaurants and blends it with t traditional diesel for use in its converted fleet of 1,600 bio-diesel vehicles, saving the City on fuel costs and about $3.5 million a year on sewer pipe unclogging. The blend is compatible with most modern-day diesel engines and reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 12 percent and the particulate matter found in smog by 20 percent.
At least twice a year for the past half-dozen years, San Francisco’s garbage company, Norcal Waste Systems, has sent the recycled paint to countries around the world. The paint comes from the thousands of gallons of extra paint that San Franciscans have dropped off at the city’s hazardous-waste center. The project that has sent 25,000 gallons of recycled paint to be used in third world countries.
The DuPont Carpet Reclamation Program collects and processes more than 2 million pounds of used carpet a month. Commercial carpet is removed, then collected and shipped to a DuPont Processing Center. There, carpet content and quality are determined, and the carpets are sorted and evaluated for their recycling value. DuPont is able to manufacture a 50% post-consumer recycled content from reclaimed carpet. Other products manufactured from recycled carpet include automotive parts, sod reinforcements, wood-like products, soundproofing and padding. DuPont has 80 collection facilities and recycles all types of carpet.
What you can do
Forget paper or plastic – bring canvas bags to the grocers (many will provide you with a small credit for your good deed)
Buy recycled products – post-consumer recycled plastic and paper products are bountiful in stores. Sometimes there is a small premium for these items.
Donate your organic food waste for compost at a community garden.
Urge your city to have a more aggressive curbside recycling programs. The most successful recycling programs are those that require the least effort on behalf of the participant.
Rinse plastic containers before recycling them.
Help clean up beaches, creeks, parks and other areas where plastic ends up, often choking birds that mistake it for food.
Donate any working electronics to schools and non-profits organizations. Also, check with your local government and trash collection service to see if they accept e-waste and check with the manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program for their products.
Use rechargeable batteries.
Recycle appliances, clothes and other items by donating to charity organizations.
Buy large bulk containers of laundry detergent and soaps, refilling smaller containers around the house.
REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE. Avoid unwanted mail. Contact the sender via email or fax that you wish your name removed from their list. Receive statement and bills via email and pay on-line.
More info at http://solarserdar.blogspot.com/
CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)