In the world of recycling, there are a few true standouts. These are the materials that can be recycled again and again, never losing their integrity. Glass and aluminum top the list: Though they may look like junk to you, they're actually valuable resources in high demand. Recycling a can, for example, takes 95 percent less energy than creating a new one (See References 1). Recycle your bottles and cans, and you'll see them on the shelf again soon.
Before your used glass can be recycled, it must be sorted. This begins at home, where you should have a glass recycling bin that's separate from your mixed bin. Glass needs to be kept separate because if it breaks the shards can get mixed in with other materials and damage recycling equipment. In general, you can only recycle glass containers such as bottles and jars. These have different ingredients and melt temperatures than drinking glasses, windows, cookware and other types of glass. Different types of glass shouldn't be mixed. (See References 2) At the recycling plant, sorting continues: Glass is sorted by color to be recycled into new glass of the same color (See References 3).
At home, aluminum doesn't normally need to be sorted separately from other materials. Your curbside program will likely accept all aluminum products under a specific weight or size limit. You can recycle cans, aluminum foil, pie tins and trays, and any other aluminum product that doesn't contain other materials like plastic or wood. (See References 4) At the recycling plant, workers separate out aluminum products. Because aluminum has high recycling rates, quality standards are strict. To be recycled, aluminum must be free of dirt and other foreign material. (See References 5)
Glass Recycling Method
Sorted glass is crushed, then cleaned to remove contaminants. It is now referred to as cullet. Cullet is in high demand: 90 percent of recycled glass will be sold to make new glass. This is because cullet is cheaper than raw materials, and easier to melt. Cullet is usually sold to a glass container manufacturer, which will melt it down to make new containers. Cullet can also be used to make fiberglass, insulation, match tips, aggregate, road markers and even decorative tile and beads. (See References 6)
Aluminum Recycling Method
The large majority of recycled aluminum is made up of cans. Cans are generally recycled into new cans, so they are in high demand. After being sorted, cans are baled and sold to aluminum manufacturers. Old can material is refined and melted into ingots or solid metal blocks. Can manufacturers melt the ingots into sheets of metal, which are then cut and formed into new cans. Next to the beverage industry, the automotive industry provides the biggest market for aluminum scrap. Higher demand for lightweight, fuel-efficient cars means a rising demand for recycled aluminum, which is used in diecasts. There are many other uses for recycled aluminum, however, and it may even be sold to other countries for use. (See References 5)
An award-winning blogger, Jessica Blue has been promoting sustainability, natural health and a do-it-yourself attitude since graduating University of California, Berkeley in 2000. Her work, seen in a wide variety of publications, advocates an environmentally-responsible and healthy lifestyle.
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