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What Are the World's Most Recycled Materials?

According to the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, asphalt is the most recycled material in the world. Almost 80 million tons (73 million metric tons) of hot-mix asphalt is recycled each year in the U.S. alone. This claim of asphalt being the most recycled material in the world does not go unchallenged, however, with the Steel Recycling Institute saying that steel is the most recycled material. Other notable claimants for the most recycled materials in the world include glass, paper and plastic.

More facts about recycling materials:

  • Recycled asphalt is often mixed with other materials and used to repave older roadways as well as to pave new ones. Materials such as fly ash, roof shingles and even rubber from old tires might be included in the mix.

  • A plastic bottle dumped into a landfill will take 100 to 1,000 years to decompose. Although plastic is often cited as taking the longest to decompose, glass can take longer. Depending on the type of glass involved, the decomposition period may be as long as 4,000 years.

  • Many municipalities offer recycling programs, with some programs managed as city services and others outsourced to recycling companies. The most popular materials to recycle through these programs include paper, including cardboard; glass; plastic; and aluminum.

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