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Recycling: behind the scenes

All Areas > Environment > Save the Planet

Author: Lily Curle, Posted: Saturday, 24th February 2018, 09:00


For many people, recycling is a day to day activity that they don’t put much thought into. Simply rinse the can, jar or bottle, put it in a box that goes at the end of the drive and have somebody else take it away for you. However, behind the scenes a lot more goes into it than many people think. Here’s what really happens to your recycling, and some tips to make the most of what you can.

The process
Dry recyclables are taken to one of many MRF (Materials Recycling Facilities) where they are sorted into individual items: mostly paper, plastic and glass. From here, the items are sent off to their relevant plant to be recycled; food tins are melted down to make car components and parts of large electrical items, and drinks cans are melted and reformed into new cans which can be in shops again in six weeks.

Glass bottles are crushed and remodeled into new items, although some crushed glass is also used to help make roads. Plastic bottles are shredded and made into a multitude of plastic items, including your recycling bins, and paper is pulped and reformed, back on the newsstand in as little as two weeks.

What’s the point?
Recycling household waste, as well as preventing us from using more virgin materials, also stops a large amount of waste being put into landfill, although currently, only around 17% of our household waste is being recycled. When waste goes into landfill, it breaks down far more slowly and releases chemicals into the soil around it, making it unusable for anything other than dumping waste. There’s also a chance that these chemicals can reach the water system and contaminate water for both us and animals.

Landfill sites require huge amounts of space for everything to be gotten rid of, causing deforestation and the destruction of green land, and as landfill sites expel large amounts of greenhouse gases, this means that there are also less trees and plants to absorb the CO2. Recycling means that less energy is required to create new products, which helps decrease the amount of CO2 a product creates during its manufacture.

How can I recycle better?
Make sure you know the recycling rules in your area: different councils will have slightly varying rules, and recycled items are collected on different days depending on your location. Making the effort to know what you can recycle curbside and what needs to go to your nearest plant will save you the hassle of having things left on your drive at the end of the day. Try to buy recycled products to reduce the amount of virgin materials being used, and don’t forget that you can also recycle garden waste and food waste!

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