What Happens to Recyclables After they Leave the Bin?

recycling symbolCurious about what happens to your recyclables after they leave the bin? Recycling programs differ in their methods of collecting, sorting and shipping waste material. Read on to learn more about common ways recyclables are converted into new resources.

Some recycling programs sort waste materials at curbside while others collect them in one big bundle and sort them later at a specialized facility. Recyclables are typically separated by machine or by hand into categories such as plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum and more. After sorting, recyclables are sent to various factories and manufacturers and made into new products. The New York Sanitation Department offers some specifics:

Common Recycling Processes:

  • Paper products such as newspapers, printer paper and magazines are shipped to paper mills across the country to make new newspapers and cardboard products.
  • Factories process corrugated cardboard to make products such as paper grocery bags.
  • Common packaging such as bottles, cans and cartons are sorted by material.
  • Steel factories acquire and convert recycled steel into new product.
  • Glass is color separated and crushed prior to melting, then shipped to bottle and jar manufacturers.
  • Aluminum products are baled and sold to manufacturers to be made into new foil and cans.
  • Plastics are categorized and sent to respective factories.
  • Organic material such as leaves, branches and grass clippings are composted into natural fertilizer.

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