In the UK, we produce 100 million tonnes of waste every year, that’s 1.5 tonnes per family. The majority of the waste we throw away ends up on land fill sites where it is eventually covered in a thin layer of soil and planted with grass to create a man-made hill. Obviously this process isn’t good for the environment and a lot of the waste could actually be recycled. In this article we take a look at what happens to various items when they are recycled.
Used paper in the form of printed documents, newspapers, magazines and cardboard can all be recycled into new paper or cardboard items. The process for doing this is reasonably simple. First the paper is shredded and put in a tank with a combination of different chemicals which help to break down the paper to return it to fibres. What is left is a mushy pulp which is then cleaned using some chemicals to remove any ink or dirt. The clean pulp is than squashed together, rolled and left to dry to create large sheets of paper or cardboard. These are then used to create new items such as newspapers, coffee cups, toilet rolls and more.
Tin cans which once contained food along with drinks cans can also be recycled. Once at the recycling plant, the cans are sorted and cleaned. They then go into a machine which re-melts them at a high temperature, turning them into molten aluminium. This is then poured into moulds and cooled to produce large bars of aluminium known as ingots which are sent to mills. At the mills, the ingots are rolled out to produce a thin layer of aluminium and then turned back into cans or foil which is used as food wrap.
Glass from bottles and other sources can also be recycled. The glass arrives at the recycling plant and is sorted by colour. It is then thoroughly cleaned to remove any impurities. After that, the glass is smashed and subjected to high temperatures where it melts. Once melted, the glass is then poured into various moulds or blown to create new items such as bottles and jars which is then re-sent to food and drink manufacturers where it is then re-filled with products we buy in the supermarket. Recycled glass can also be used for other purposes too such as in brick manufacture.
Clothing bins are often now found in most supermarket car parks. Once full the bins are collected and sent to sorting plants where the clothes are sorted into what can be re-worn and what can’t. The clothing that is still suitable for wear will be used by charities to provide clothing for poverty stricken families both in the UK and in developing countries. The items that are not suitable to be worn again are shredded and cleaned to produce fibres. These are then used as stuffing for upholstery or mattresses, used for insulating car interiors or used to produce felt amongst other things.
At present about 17% of the waste produced in the UK is actually recycled but it is thought that the typically family could recycle up to 80% of their waste by separating glass, cans, compostable waste and paper for recycling.
John is a guest blogger from UK skip hire price comparison website SkipandBin.com – they only work with licenced skip hire operators so you can be sure your waste will be properly recycled or disposed of legally in landfill sites.