Recycling is part of a cyclical process in which waste is once again used as a raw material to manufacture new products. This reduces the generation of waste and the extraction of new natural resources.
Large-scale recycling normally involves recycling plants which operate compactors, crushers, and trommel screens in order to sort, filter or compact solid waste before being further processed depending on type, function, etc.
But how many times can paper, glass, plastic or metals actually be recycled? Today we will see how many times you can reuse the materials that we use most in our daily life.
Glass is 100% recyclable indefinitely and does not lose any of its properties. The only limit is colour. If a glass container is green, it can never be used to make a transparent container.
In many European countries, glass is separated by colours in the collection process, but in others, whatever its colour, it ends up in the same container. This can become a problem for later reuse.
So, for us to understand the process, with a used glass bottle another can be made, but there will be a bit of new raw materials required to have the desired colour.
For the industry that uses this type of material to pack their products, colour is very important, so it would be very good if all glass was separated by colour (with the help of citizens or with an automated process) to take advantage of each bottle. A higher proportion of recovered glass increases the overall efficiency of the system.
The same paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. The cellulose fibre undergoes deterioration each time it is incorporated into the process to produce new paper.
The cellulose fibre can be reused about six times. This means that it is essential to incorporate virgin fibre extracted from trees to the process to renew the raw material.
Metals can be recycled indefinitely just like glass. If you recycle steel or aluminium from a car, from a washing machine or from a can, you have new raw material again and again.
A good example is the lead from car batteries, which can be reused again and again to produce new batteries without having to resort to mining.
Plastic is one of the materials that pollute our planet on a large scale, in fact, there are already “plastic continents” in our oceans. So that the plastic can be used again, first it has to be crushed, washed and melted to form plastic grains.
This is a thermal process that degrades the material. Due to the process, you can only recycle it about 4-5 times.
With recycled plastic you can do many things, even pave streets, as done in Vancouver, Canada. The problem with this type of solution is that the plastic can no longer be recycled; its useful life will end there.
For plastics degraded by previous recycling phases, “energy recycling” is usually used, in which they are diverted to an incinerator to generate electricity through burning. Without being the best solution, since it would be best not to use them, it is something that prevents plastics from flooding our planet.