TYPES of RECYCLING - Practical Guide

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Recycling strategies have been in development for many years, in some cases with high success rates. Although they have been applied for a long time, since the development of circular economy theories we have framed them in this economic strategy (along with reduction, reuse, other types of recovery, etc.), since they help us reduce extractivist activity as a result to introduce a new flow of raw material in the production cycle, which comes from our waste. And we have to remember that garbage, more than garbage without the possibility of profit, is actually an opportunity. In addition, there are different types of recycling. To know better what types of recycling There is and more related information, keep reading Green Ecologist.

Benefits of recycling

They have always told us that you have to recycle, but why? What are the benefits of recycling?

Reduction in the volume of garbage

Well, the first advantage is that the amount of garbage is reduced: managing garbage is a very complicated process as well as potentially polluting. Any waste that is not reused must end up incinerated (almost always) and eventually buried in a landfill. Garbage is regularly incinerated and the ashes are taken to a final landfill, although incineration does not occur in all cases.

Whatever the way, landfills are sources of contamination: incineration causes harmful gases that must be managed properly, garbage generates leachates that can contaminate groundwater if it reaches them and large amounts of methane, which is generated when organic matter decomposes. Methane is a GHG or Greenhouse Gas that turns out to be much worse than the already dreaded CO2 or carbon dioxide. In addition, the territory is always used, which is difficult to recover (depending, once again, on the management that is done), in addition to the generation of unpleasant odors for the neighbors and disturbing for the local fauna. And without taking into account all the garbage that is deposited in unsuitable spaces, which can generate much greater problems. Recycling helps us avoid this huge amount of garbage.

The extraction of raw materials is reduced

But not only is the amount of garbage reduced, but, as material is reintroduced as raw material, less extractive activity is necessary. In other words, we need fewer oil operations to generate plastics, fewer mines for the various metals, etc. All extractive activity has an environmental impact, generally high, so by recycling we avoid it. In general, this impact is much less than that generated by recycling facilities and plants (although this does not mean that the latter should be neglected). Furthermore, economic costs are often reduced as well.

Less environmental pollution

Lastly, recycling cycles are usually local. Although this is not the case in all cases, in general there are few reserves of raw materials concentrated in a few places on the planet, while all countries have a demand for these raw materials. Recycling, well organized, can help us reduce transport flows between one point and another.

Learn more about What are the benefits of recycling in this other Green Ecologist article.

Types of recycling - sorting for recycling

There are several criteria for sort recycling. We are going to see, next, the criteria that define the types of recycling there:

Recycling according to material

In this case, it basically depends on the material we want to treat. It is very important to separate the materials well, since the less mixture there is, the better quality the raw material resulting from the recycling process will be.

In this category, we find the following types of recycling according to basic materials:

  • Recycling of plastics, cans and bricks.
  • Recycling of paper and cardboard.
  • Glass recycling.
  • Recycling of food waste.
  • Recycling of non-recyclable objects.

Non-recyclable objects may be subject to a recovery process, for example to produce energy using them as fuel (incineration), but they cannot be reused as raw material. Regarding the remains of food or organic compounds, depending on the quality of the separation, they can be used to make fertilizers or they will end up in a landfill.

Recycling according to processes

In this section we address some of the processes that occur during recycling:

  • Mechanical recycling: includes manual mechanical work (sorting) or assisted by machinery, such as screening tables or trommels. It is used a lot to separate materials, and in the recycling of plastic.
  • Chemical recycling: the decomposition of a polymer in its corresponding monomers is sought to make a new use. It includes hydrolysis, methanolysis, pyrolysis, dissolution … and the important washing processes.
  • Energy recycling: some residues that cannot be used are used as fuel in large kilns, such as old tire wheels (when rubber cannot be reused), olive pomace, etc.

Recycling of hazardous and non-hazardous waste

A very important selection and transport criterion is the removal of hazardous waste. Most cannot be reused or recycled, but some can be treated in a way that reduces their hazard and causes less damage to the environment. In this case we are talking about paints, batteries, solvents, dirty rags, oils, gases, contaminated organic waste, etc. In this other post we explain everything about hazardous waste: classification, examples and management.

Types of recycling bins

The most common recycling containers are the following (although you should check with your local authorities, as they may vary from one place to another depending on the specificities of the management):

  • Yellow: packaging.
  • Blue: paper and cardboard.
  • Green: glass.
  • Brown: organic.
  • Gray: other non-recyclable scraps or waste.

Besides these recycling containersThere are clean points for the collection of other materials, such as woods, oils, electronic devices and a long etcetera. In Spain we also have SIGRE points, medicine collection points, and battery management points.

In this other post from Ecologist Verde we tell you what are the types of recycling containers.

If you want to read more articles similar to Types of recycling, we recommend that you enter our Recycling and waste management category.

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