Revisiting Recyling

By Palliser, Janna | Science Scope, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Revisiting Recyling


Palliser, Janna, Science Scope


Recycling has been around for a long time--people have reused materials and refashioned them into needed items for thousands of years. More recently, war efforts encouraged conservation and reuse of materials, and in the 1970s recycling got its official start when recycling centers were created. Now, curbside recycling programs and recycling centers are common. In 2009, approximately 9,000 curbside recycling programs and 3,000 composting communities existed in the United States (EPA 2010). You can now recycle at home and in airports, schools, and the workplace. But when you throw a can or plastic container into the recycling bin, what happens to it? Where does it go? Recycling helps to reduce waste, but how efficient is it? Are some items more recyclable than others? These questions and others will be addressed in this month's column.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Recycling basics

There are several definitions of recycling, but "to adapt to a new use" and "to make ready for reuse" seem to fit best (Merriam-Webster 2011). Recycling turns would-be garbage into another product. A recycling "loop" is created when a consumer purchases a recycled item, instead of the direct line a product would normally take if simply thrown in the trash.

Recycling steps

Recycling consists of three basic steps: collection and processing, manufacturing, and purchasing recycled products.

Collection most often occurs curbside at residences, if the service is provided. Other methods include drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/ refund programs (available in 11 states) (EPA 2011a; Davis 2008). After collection, recyclables are sent to a materials recovery facility where they are cleaned and sorted. As with other commodities, recycled materials are bought and sold at fluctuating prices.

After cleaning and sorting, recyclables move on to the manufacturing stage where they are converted into a product that is either completely or partially made of recycled materials. Newspapers, paper towels, aluminum, plastic, glass soda bottles, steel cans, and plastic laundry detergent bottles are items that often contain recycled material. Recycled materials are also being used in roadway asphalt (glassphalt), carpeting, park benches, and pedestrian bridges (EPA 2011a).

The last step, purchasing recycled products, completes the recycling loop.

Waste statistics

In 2009, Americans generated 243 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) and recovered 82 million tons of this material (61 million tons were recycled and 21 million tons composted). The recycling rate was about 33.8%. While the amount of trash has increased annually, so have recycling and composting: In 1960, 88.1 million tons of MSW were generated and 5.6 million tons were recycled. In 2009, 243 mil lion tons of MSW were generated and 82 million tons were recycled (EPA 2010).

Of the MSW generated in the United States in 2009, 54.3% was discarded, 33.8% was recovered (recycled), and 11.9% underwent combustion (with energy recovered) (EPA 2010).

What we throw away

Of the 243 million tons of trash generated in 2009, organic materials are the largest component and consist of paper and paperboard (28.2%), food scraps (14.1%), and yard trimmings (13.7%). Other components include plastics (12.3%); metals (8.6%); rubber, leather, and textiles (8.3%); wood (6.5%); glass (4.8%); and other (3.5%) (EPA 2010).

Recycling rates

Measured by percentage of generation, products with the highest recovery rates (in 2009) were lead-acid batteries (96%), newspapers (88%), corrugated boxes (81%), office-type papers (74%), major appliances (67%), steel packaging (66%), yard trimmings (60%), commercial printing papers (66%), standard mail (63%), magazines (54%), aluminum cans (51%), and folding cartons (50%). The lowest recycling rate was for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and jars at 28% (EPA 2010). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revisiting Recyling
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.