Why Is Recycling Important and Applications of Recycled Materials

Modified: 22nd Sep 2021
Wordcount: 2968 words

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Recycling is a process where waste or used products are reproduced into new products. A product which has served its own purpose will be discarded, and recycling is an effort to extend the usage life of a product, thus bringing a lot of benefits to humanity and the mother earth. Most items around us are recyclable, although there are specific techniques used to recycle different material, including metal, plastic and paper.

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The entire process of recycling involves 3 basic steps. The used material has to be collected, and then sorted according to its material. The second step involves producing usable goods from the sorted items. After the goods were produced, the last step requires selling of the reproduced goods to the general mass, consumers or a specific market. As the reproduced goods are sold and reused, the entire process of recycling is complete and will make way for another cycle to come.

Why is recycling important?

Recycling helps preserve the environment in addition to providing more usable objects to people without the need for extra resources. Its importance can be seen in multiple ways. Below are the reasons in which recycling can be beneficial:

Recycling Saves the Earth

Recycling a material can help preserve the environment. For example, recycling the paper can result in paper production without additional tree falling. By recycling more paper and selling it to consumer, more papers can be used without further damaging the forest than its current rate of tree falling.

Recycling Saves Energy

Recycling a material takes less energy than to produce an item from virgin materials. For example, an aluminum product uses both the aluminum and the huge amount of energy to produce it from raw ore. Thus by recycling an item made of aluminum, we can reuse the metal again and also save on the huge energy which helps preserve the environment.

Recycling Helps Mitigate Global Warming and Reduce Pollution

One of the biggest benefits of recycling is saving energy. Energy saving results in less emission of carbon or greenhouse gases which are a by-product created by energy production, which are detrimental and harmful to the environment if released to the atmosphere.

Recycling Reduces Waste Products in Landfills

Waste which are not recycled usually ends up in the landfill. It is here that the waste are left to rot or decomposed, and this may take many years of even generations to fully decompose. More and more waste are being sent to the landfills, and if recycling does not take place, the landfill may be right behind our homes in the future.

Recycling Helps you Save Money

Recycled products usually cost less. Using existing material and a lot less energy, recycled product can be sold for a fraction of the same item created using virgin materials. Apart from that, selling waste for recycling purposes converts garbage into useful cash.

Recycling can also be done at home, and taught to the children as a good habit to be nurtured. Biodegradable waste can be used as fertilizer for plants. Creativity goes a long way in saving money and saving the planet Earth.

Recycling becomes increasingly important in a world where the population is booming. More and more products are being churned out to consumers. If these products are not recycled at the end of the product life, it will take generations to break down or decompose.

Applications of Recycled Materials

Application of Recycled Glass

Man has found ways to recycle glass. This in fact, is highly recommended and beneficial to the manufacturing line as it is easier to produce and cost less. Crushed glass known as cullets, melts easier and faster and cost less than the raw materials used to produce glass. This practice is endorsed by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a better and greener way to produce glass.

Common Non-container Uses

According to Glass Packaging Institute, recycled glasses are best to be used for its initial purpose before it was being sent for recycled. For example, glass bottles are best recycled to be made into glass bottles, and those which does not qualify in the container manufacturing standards can be channeled to other usages such as fiberglass. (See References 2)

Aggregate Materials

Realize it or not, we’re driving over glass every day in our lives. Parking lots and concrete pavement has grounded glass composition. Grounded glass as an effective base material enhances the performance of the gravel in the mix, and sometimes is independent of other materials when used as a base.

Glass-phalt is a material applied to making roads, including airport runways and highways, making the surface to have higher friction coefficient, less slippery and less likely to crack. Glass-phalt is made of recycled glass. Recycled glass is also used to make glass beads, which in turn is used to make reflective paint on the road.

Abrasive Media

According to the Clean Washington Center, the usage of recycled glass as abrasive media is known as “base load market”. It is verified that recycled glass has equal or better quality than traditionally used abrasive media, such as aluminum oxide or walnut shell. This makes recycled glass highly competent in the surface preparation of manufacturing equipment components and even ships. Furthermore, less recycled glass is required to produce the same job when compared with usage of traditional mineral. Moreover, glass has the advantage of being non-detrimental to health with no silica exposure dust.


Green-scaping is a term used for landscape products which are manufactured using recycled glass. Glass does not absorb moisture unlike its wooden counterpart, thus improving water delivery. It also comes in various colors to choose from. Manufacturers use crushed porcelain in concrete slab in addition to the recycled glass to decorate pathways and patios

Application of Recycled Paper

Placing the paper in the recycle bin helps re-create paper from existing resources. This diverts the waste meant for landfills into usable products which uses less energy, water and material to produce.

How Much Paper is Recycled?

How much paper is actually recycled? Research shows that the amount of paper being recycled has reached record levels. According to the Paper Industry Association Council, “In 2008, 57.4 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling. This impressive figure equals 340 pounds for each man, woman and child in America.”

Limits on Paper Recycling

Papers are limited by the fiber it contains. As paper is recycled each time, it breaks down into pulp. This can be done for a maximum six or seven times. The fiber then will be shortened each time until it is not usable.

Office Grade Paper

Office grade papers are the highest quality papers in the cycle of recycling. Its quality and firmness plus its sturdy fibers, this type of paper are often recycled back into its initial grade. However, bleaching is required to reproduce its whiteness.


Papers used for newsprint are often low quality paper, therefore it cannot be recycled into better quality paper. As paper cannot be upgraded through recycling, the paper used for newsprint are often recycled back into its initial usage or lesser grade


Cardboard, whether corrugated or pressboard, is made of the lowest quality paper. If it’s ever recycled, it can be used for packaging. Producing boxes or cartons is ideal, as the color or brightness dulls overtime as it is recycled, and packaging boxes like cartons rarely considers color as an important factor.


Tissue can be a form of recycled product. Since strength of paper is not an issue, unusable fibers are usually used for producing tissue.

Other Uses for Recycled Paper

There are many other products that are produced using recycled paper: coffee filters, diapers, egg cartons, shoe boxes, napkins or insulation.

Application of recycled Plastic

Recycled plastic can be used in many applications and products, such as packaging, construction or automobile components.


Recycled PET or HDPE is primarily used in packaging by retailers. Household names such as Coca Cola, The Body Shop or M&S commonly use recycled plastic in some of their products.

Use of recycled plastic helps demonstrate a brand image towards commitment to sustainable resource use.


Recycled plastic is used a lot in construction materials, such as drainage pipes, ducting or flooring.

It is innovated into scaffolding boards or kerbstones, where its durability and weight has superior benefit to Health and Safety purposes.


Landscaping uses recycled plastics to be made into walkways, jetties, pontoons, bridges, fences and signs.

Durability, low maintenance, vandal resistance, and its resistance to rot are all key reasons for plastic being used.

Textile fiber / clothing

Polyester fleece clothing and polyester filling for duvets is frequently made from recycled PET bottles (e. g. soft drink and water bottles).

Polyester fiber is the biggest single market for recycled PET bottles worldwide.

Street furniture

Street furniture, seating, bins, street signs and planters are frequently made from plastic. They are cost competitive and resistant to vandalism.

Local authorities and schools are able to demonstrate recycling in action by specifying recycled products.

Bin liners/ refuse sacks

Plastic film from sources such as pallet wrap, carrier bags, and agricultural film are made into new film products such as bin liners, carrier bags and refuse sacks on a large scale.

Application of Recycled Metal

The functions of metals like steel, copper, and aluminum was revealed thousands of years ago. Their properties and characteristics of strong, durable, malleable and high conductivity are highly important in a wide range of products today. However, metals are resources of the Earth which has finite quantity and not replenish-able.

Metal deposits are non-renewable resources that will run out if it is continued to be mined at the current rate. Therefore, it is highly important to recycle metals.

Metals can be recycled without losing any their key properties. Inefficient recovery of metals from industrial and consumer waste increases the pressure on the non-renewable resources of the Earth from which they are extracted.

Discarding metal is bad for the environment due to the release of metallic particles in the ecosystem. Recycling and metal recovery from the waste stream is essential in preserving valuable resources and the environment.

Recycling metals are effective because they can be recycled for infinite times, making them extremely friendly to the environment. Metals differ from polymer plastics in a way that the characteristics are maintained regardless of the physical or chemical form, although it might be costly.


The extraction of aluminum from its ore requires huge amount of energy. To extract aluminum from alumina is a complex process. Recycling aluminum only takes about 5% of the energy used compared to producing it via mining, and thus only releases 5% of the CO2 emission.

This in addition decreases the amount of waste being transported to the landfill. A recycled aluminum can save enough energy to run a television set for 3 hours. For example, recycling 1kg of aluminum saves up to 6kg of bauxite, 4kg of chemical products and 14 kWh of electricity.


Iron is extracted from iron ore which is common and highly abundant. Usually found in a combined form with oxygen or other elements like sulphur or carbon. Huge amounts of energy required to extract the iron from the ore.

Over 11 million tons of iron and steel scrap are produced every year. From this amount 70% are recovered. Of the remaining quantity, 60% is sent to the landfill. Every ton of steel recycled can save 1.5 tons of iron ore, 0.5 tons of coal, 40% of the water used in production, 75% of the energy required to extract steel from the raw material, 1.28 tons of solid waste, decrease in air pollution emission of up to 86%, and reduction of water pollution release by 76 %.

Recycling Metals / Other Metals to Look Out For

Copper, nickel, brass, lead, gold, silver, etc. can all be recycled. Since these metals are all quite valuable only a smaller quantity is in circulation. The recovery of these metals is sometimes ignored especially when they are used in households and these items are disposed of by the householders.

Application of Recycled Oil

Did you know?

That used, second-hand oil can be further re-refined into base stock for lubricating oil?

And also, if you recycle just 2 gallons of used oil, it is sufficient to generate electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours.

Cars, like many transportation vehicles, are an essential part of life for many of us. What is done with the used oil, whether to dispose of it or to recycle it plays a significant role in balancing our desire for convenient transportation with our hope for a clean and healthy environment for our children?

We are all familiar with recycling newspapers, aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, but many of us are not even aware of the efforts carried out by giant petroleum industry to promote used motor oil for recycling, for example, providing convenient collection sites for the purpose of keeping used motor oil out of our water supplies and making sure that the oil goes back into the recycling cycle.

Oddly enough, even after it has been drained from an engine, motor oil retains some of its value. The oil collected can be recycled to save energy. Many institutions, schools or plants process the used oil for electricity generation. Some plants even process it to be used for engine oil again.

As consumer, we can send our used oils for recycling by taking it to the collection center. If our cars are taken to the car service center, we can be fairly certain that the oil will be recycled after they change. Additionally, we can make a difference by recycling the oil from our car, truck, motorcycle, boat, recreational vehicle or lawnmower. By dropping off our used motor oil today we help prevent pollution and conserve energy for a safer and healthier tomorrow

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Recycling used motor oil keeps oil out of landfills and ensures that this oil is available for re-use, reconditioning, reprocessing or re-refining. In fact, the best oil for the sake of environment is the longer lasting oil, making sure that less oil is generated. As much as over 380 million gallons of used oil is recycled every single year according to the U.S. EPA, which is equivalent to over 50 percent of all motor oil purchased annually. Currently, used motor oil can be re-used or recycled in one of the three known ways – reconditioning, reprocessing or re-refining.


With modern and sophisticated method, refining can be done with accurate feed and stringent quality control. Used motor oil can be processed to remove any impurities so it can be reused as a base stock for the new lubricating oil. This effectively extends the lifespan of the oil, making it reusable for many times without sending it to the landfill.

At the present, less than 15% of used motor oil is refined and the consumer demand for refined used motor oil is low, making it hard to sustain for business. It is important to note that the purchased refined used motor oil comply with the oil specifications as set by the vehicle manufacturer.


In some industries, oil is filtered or clean in commercial scale machine. Although it may not convert the oil back to its prime quality, it can remove impurities and key additives can be added to extend its life and functions.

Re-Use and Reprocessing

Both motor oil and fuels are petroleum product. As lubricant, when the oil has ceased functioning, it can be reused to be burned as fuel without the need for further treatment. Water and certain particles may need to be removed earlier before the oil can be burn for electricity generation.

74% of all oil recycled in the United States of America is for the purpose of fuel combustion in turbines, incinerators, power plants, cement kilns and manufacturing facilities. An additional 11% of used motor oil is burned in specifically designed industrial space heaters. This creates a valuable form of energy, which helps our economy by avoiding the need to refine new commercial heating oil from imported crude oil.


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