what is recycling

Recycling is the process that consists of collecting and transforming waste or waste materials into new materials or products for reuse.

This process consists of different steps such as the collection of waste or garbage materials, their classification (glass, plastic, aluminum, paper, wood, biodegradable waste, etc.), their processing and transformation into new raw materials or products that will have a new useful life cycle and, possibly, can be recycled again.

In recycling, the classification plants participate, where the waste is separated, and the recycling plants, where the waste is transformed for its use.

Depending on the case, a portion or all of a material can be recycled. For example, the pages of a notebook that has already been used can be recycled to make new pages that can be used by someone else.

Recycling is an alternative to achieve the conservation of natural resources, promote sustainability and reduce the accumulation of waste in landfills and high levels of environmental pollution. In addition, it allows the reuse of materials that, despite their use, are potentially useful.

Waste recycling

Step 1. Collection


Placing the trash in the correct garbage collector is very helpful during the waste sorting process.

There are different methods to collect garbage. These take into account the well-being of the community, the costs for the State and the ease of carrying out this task:

  • Delivery centers. Spaces where people deliver garbage.
  • Purchase or reimbursement centers. They are spaces where people sell different types of waste that can be recycled, such as aluminum or glass. Their prices vary according to supply and demand.
  • Curbside pickup. People deposit the waste in garbage collectors and then a special vehicle collects the waste. It also includes garbage collectors identified with different colors, where people deposit waste according to its classification. Colors may vary in each country. This implies public education on the importance and necessity of recycling.
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Step 2. Separation and cleaning


Once the garbage is collected, it is sent to the facilities dedicated to waste treatment. There, those wastes that can be recycled are separated, the materials (organic and inorganic) are classified and cleaned so that purer recycled materials can be produced, that is, less mixed.

The organic waste They are the remains of food that derive from plants and animals. Also included are fresh or dried leaves, animal dung, wood ashes, fruit remains, flowers, among others.

The inorganic waste They are those that derive from products that have been made by humans such as glass, plastic, metal, batteries, scrap metal, among others.

Step 3. Processing


Recyclable materials, once selected and cleaned, are transformed into a new product. There are different types of recycling processing:

  • Primary or closed loop recycling. Process by which recycled materials are converted into others of the same type. For example, aluminum from cans is recycled to make more cans.
  • secondary recycling. The waste material is processed to make other products with that same material. For example, the recycling of tires is used to make other products with rubber.
  • tertiary recycling. Materials go through a process that modifies their chemical structure in order to produce a new material. For example, from the recycling of plastic, different products can be made depending on the polymers contained in the waste.

Step 4. Manufacturing

After processing the garbage, materials are obtained that are used for the production of new goods and products. More and more products are made from recycled materials.

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For example: paper, cardboard boxes, egg cartons, newspapers, paper towels. There are also plastic, glass or aluminum containers such as bottles, cans, containers, plastic bags, among others.

Importance of recycling

The importance of recycling lies in the multiple advantages obtained from this action such as:

  • Reduce landfills.
  • Save water.
  • Save energy.
  • Generate fewer CO emissionstwo.
  • Reduce the consumption of natural resources.
  • Decrease in production costs for some industries.
  • Create jobs.

Recycling is part of an ecological model of sustainability. This is based on the use of resources respecting the natural cycles of regeneration of materials.

See also:

  • Recycle
  • recycling symbol
  • Rule of the 3 R’s