When it comes to a clean environment, the country seems to be split in terms of the level or importance and the hierarchy on the social agenda. But regardless of how hard of a “tree hugger” you are, (or not) recycling is an important part of human life and sustainability. But what exactly happens to our reusable waste once it goes to the curb?
Paper is collected and sorted based on its color, size, weight, and usage. It is then turned into a soupy paste where bleach is added and miscellaneous particles are removed. The ink is then removed from the paper by being scraped scraped off or by a chemical wash. The paper is then dried and flattened and cut into squares for resale.
Since glass can not be down cycled, (the process of breaking waste down into smaller pieces and producing other goods from them) it is usually either highly sterilized for later use, or melted down to create other glass products. However, only like colored glass will be melted down to form the same type of glass. (i.e. green, brown, or clear will be reused for similar purposes, respectfully)
Steel is relatively easy to recycle. Like glass, it to is melted down and turned into sheets or coils to be shipped off and processed into car parts or construction material. In fact U.S. law requires that all steel be made with at least 25% recycled steel.
Plastics are more complicated to recycle than its counter parts because of its molecular structure. Plastics are typically broken down into smaller pieces or pellets and are then used to create goods such as fleece, construction material, certain furniture, or even insulation.