What is recycling?

We explain what recycling is and how important it is to carry out this action. What is recycling symbol? In addition, polluting factors, benefits and costs, the types of recycling and the norm of the 3R. Recycling chain and 

What is recycling?

Recycling is understood as the action of converting waste materials into raw material or other products , in order to extend their useful life and combat the accumulation of waste in the world. Recycling reinsertes the waste material from numerous industrial, business or daily consumption activities in the production chain, allowing it to be reused and reducing the need to acquire or develop new materials.

Not all existing materials are recyclable , but a good number of them are, such as cardboard, glass, aluminum, paper and certain types of plastics , which can be subjected to various reuse processes and restart their useful cycle . In other cases, on the other hand, they cannot be given the same use, but they can be given a different one in construction, decoration, energy obtaining processes , etc.

This is the case with organic waste (food scraps, liquid waste, etc.), which are not recyclable, but luckily there are biodegradation processes that carry out an equivalent natural activity , and can be used for  composting  or fertilizer manufacturing.

Recycling is a minority activity in the face of the enormous manufacturing capabilities of new materials that are launched daily in our post-industrial world. It is often much cheaper to produce something new than to recycle something old, which makes this much-needed activity in ecological terms unprofitable.

Polluting factors

To talk about recycling, it is important to know about the polluting factors in which we must be aware in order to take care of the environment and end global pollution. Which we refer: 1

  • Air: where all the odors and pollutants from factories, traffic, among other things accumulate.
  • Water: where society pollutes more frequently since there, society is the cause by throwing its waste, throwing polluting products and doing its industrial work.
  • Use of energy: in which as society grows, manufactures of any type are generated, which pollute the environment.

Importance of recycling

Recycling can fight pollution.

Recycling is a way to combat the contamination of soils and seas, since the prolonged presence of garbage in them causes unpredictable changes in their biotic and ecological processes. In the face of the construction of a sustainable industrial life model over time , that is, that does not lead to disease, extinction and climate change , recycling is imposed as a human necessity.

On the other hand, recycling certain elements can be a moderately lucrative activity , once it is implemented as part of the daily culture. Recycled items are purchased by companies that take advantage of them to decrease their acquisition of raw materials, so that it is a win-win scenario.

Types of recycling

There are various forms of recycling, depending on the nature of the material in question, such as:

  • Recycling paper . Large amounts of used paper can be soaked to make cellulose pulp and make inferior quality paper, which can be reused.
  • Metal recycling . Everyday metal products made from aluminum, copper and other soft metals can be melted and reused to make new products, reducing the need to buy raw materials.
  • Recycling of plastic containers . Tetra-bricks and other entire plastic containers can be reused once they have been properly sanitized and ready to contain food or juices again.
  • Oil recycling . Cooking oil is a powerful water pollutant , which can be collected and used through filtration and purification processes , as a machinery lubricant.
  • Composting . Organic waste, such as food leftovers in decomposition, can become fertilizer for planting or even inputs for obtaining biofuels.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

what is recycling
Reuse fights the culture of consumerism.

It is known as the “norm of the 3R” to a pattern of bioamigable culture, which leads to a sustainable society. To do this, three key concepts must be implemented in our daily lives, which are:

  • Reduce . Consume only what is necessary, avoid wasteful culture that not only generates more garbage than is strictly necessary, but also consumes resources that are expensive to obtain in environmental terms, such as electricity or drinking water. Small daily actions can guarantee significant savings in natural resources of the planet, many of which are not renewable or can be processed cleanly.
  • Reusing . The use of old materials and products for new purposes, before changing them immediately for others. Thus the culture of consumerism and irresponsibility is fought, with small gestures such as writing the leaves on both sides, filling glass bottles, etc.
  • Recycle . Give new life to waste materials, such as containers, papers, aluminum cans, etc., bringing them back to the production chain. This requires an effort to separate recyclable garbage from biodegradable, as well as a public organization that distinguishes places to deposit them separately.

Recycling chain

Selective waste collection through the pneumatic collection system .

The recycling chain consists of several stages:

  • Recovery or collection: which can be carried out by public or private companies. It consists solely of collecting and transporting waste to the next link in the chain. Urban separate collection containers are used (yellow, green, blue, gray and brown containers).
  • Transfer plants: this is a mandatory link that is not always used. Here the waste is mixed to carry out larger transports at lower cost (using larger containers or more powerful compactors).
  • Classification (or separation) plants: where waste is classified and recoverable items are separated. Waste that can be recycled from those that cannot. The fraction that cannot be recycled is taken to energy use or landfills.
  • Final recycler (or valuation plant): where the waste is finally recycled (paper mills, plastic containers, etc.), stored (landfills) or used for energy production (cement plants, biogas, etc.).

For the separation in domestic origin 2 different colored containers are used located in urban or rural environments:

  • Yellow container ( containers ): All types of light containers such as plastic containers ( bottles , tubs, bags , trays, etc.), cans (drinks, preserves, etc.) must be deposited in this container . In general, all those containers sold in the national market and identified by the green dot symbol. 3
  • Blue container ( paper and cardboard ): In this container the cardboard containers (boxes, trays, etc.), as well as newspapers, magazines, wrapping papers, propaganda, etc., should be deposited. It is advisable to fold the boxes so that they occupy the minimum space inside the container and also remove the staples, the beads and the plastics that are incorporated in the paper and cardboard. If they are stained with organic waste, such as paper napkins, they should not go in this container.
  • Green container ( glass ): Glass containers are placed in this container. But it must be taken into account that you cannot deposit light bulbs, medicine bottles, glasses, vases and cups, earthenware, car windows, porcelain or ceramic, stoppers, plates or lids from the glass jars or bottles, tubes and fluorescent lamps. . 4
  • Brown container ( organic ): 5 The rest of the waste that has no place in the previous groups is deposited in it, mainly organic waste classified as biodegradable matter .
  • Red container or clean points ( hazardous waste ): Such as mobile phones, insecticides, 6 cells or batteries, edible oil or vehicle oil, syringes, aerosol cans, etc.
  • Orange container: used cooking oil.
  • Specific container in pharmacies: for the recovery of expired medicines or that will no longer be used, including the containers.

Rule of the 3Rs

The three Rs are a practice to achieve a more sustainable society.

  • Reduce : actions to reduce the production of objects likely to become waste, with rational purchase measures, proper use of products, purchase of sustainable products.
  • Reuse : actions that allow the reuse of a certain product to give it a second life, with the same or a different use. Measures aimed at repairing products and extending their useful life.
  • Recycle: the set of waste collection and treatment operations that allow it to be reintroduced into a life cycle. Waste separation at source is used to provide suitable channels.

Ways of recycling

  • Metal recycling
  • Aluminum recycling
  • Glass recycling
  • Battery and cell recycling
  • Cement recycling
  • Paper recycling
  • Cardboard recycling
  • Medicine recycling
  • Plastic recycling
  • Recycling tetra pak
  • Textile recycling in
  • Recycling of oils
  • Recycling of bulbs and lamps
  • Recycling of electronic components
  • Converting to paper
  • Mechanical recycling
  • Composting for compost
  • Foundry
  • Revulcanized
  • Fusion (change of state)
  • Recovery
  • Recycling bags

Benefits and costs

According to the Economic Information Study Recycling United States, more than 50,000 recycling facilities have created more than one million jobs in the US. UU.

Years after New York City declared that implementing recycling programs would be “a drain on the city,” New York City leaders realized that an efficient recycling system could save the city more. of 20 million dollars.

The auto recycling industry in the United States alone employs about 100,000 people per year.

What is recycling symbol?

The logo is an environmental icon and a classic in the world of graphic design; It is currently used throughout the world to identify products that are recyclable.

It was created by the American Gary Anderson in 1970, as part of a contest organized by the Container Corporation of America, a paper company based in Chicago, United States.

The company launched the contest, among other things, as part of the activities that were organized during the Earth Day that began to be celebrated that same year. Anderson, originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, was 23 years old and had just graduated from an architecture degree.

Its design was inspired by the Möbius Strip , which is a single-sided, single-edge surface, as well as the work of the Dutch artist MC Escher . 

The award was announced during the Aspen International Design Conference (IDCA) and Anderson was awarded a $ 2,500 scholarship, which he used to study for a year at the University of Sweden.

The symbol is now used around the world, with different variations, to identify recyclable products, as well as to represent the three “Rs” that environmentalists drive: reduce, reuse and recycle.

In 1988, the Association of the Plastics Industry in the United States took this image as a basis to create a code that allows us to know what is the predominant material in the manufacture of a product and, therefore, identify the complexity of its recycling. This code uses a scale of one to seven and identifies a number of plastics.

The one is for those products made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and that are the easiest to recycle. The difficulty of recycling increases with the scale up to the number seven, which is used for those products made from plastic materials that are really difficult to recycle. The number that corresponds to each material is found inside the recycling symbol, the three arrows created by Gary Anderson.

  • Number 1: PET plastic or polyethylene terephthalate
  • Number 2: high-density polyethylene plastic
  • Number 3: PVC plastic or polyvinyl chloride
  • Number 4: low-density polyethylene plastic
  • Number 5: polypropylene plastic
  • Number 6: polystyrene , like PS or ABS
  • Number 7: other plastics like polycarbonates , polyamides, or polyurethanes

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