What is the Best Way to Recycle Waste?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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There are many different ways to recycle waste, and they are largely dependent on the type of waste that needs to be recycled. Many basic forms of waste, such as glass bottles or aluminum cans, can be easily recycled, while things like electronics and batteries may require a bit more work to recycle. One can generally recycle waste that is highly toxic, as well, but it often costs a fee or requires driving to one of only a handful of facilities in a state or country.

It should be noted that there is usually a distinction made between a composting program, and a program to actually recycle waste. Although the general principle is roughly the same, composting involves organic materials being allowed or encouraged to break down into soil that can then be reused. Recycling, on the other hand, takes materials and breaks them into their constituent parts and purifies them somewhat so they can be reused again in further manufacture. Generally, however, there is some degradation in quality, so that, for example, white writing paper might be recycled and turned into a brown paper or cardboard.


Most cities in the United States offer recycling programs that make it relatively easy to recycle waste. Many municipalities offer curbside pickup, where residents can get a special bin for common household waste items that can be recycled. In order to recycle waste in these, all one needs do is clean the waste somewhat, and dispose of it as one would garbage, but in a special bin. In some areas, waste must be separated by material, for example into glass, metal, plastic, and paper. In many areas, however, waste may be mixed, and is sorted later, either manually or through mechanical means.

In areas where curbside pickup is not available, often waste management facilities offer recycling through their normal programs. Recycling waste at these locations is nearly always free, in contrast to the fee imposed by disposing of waste. Some states have facilities that offer money in return for recycling certain materials, generally bottles and cans, which is usually marked as a Redemption Value.

Industrial recycling most often takes place at special facilities. For example, waste concrete or building materials can often be recycled by bringing them to an industrial recycling location. In some cases a small charge may be charged for recycling these materials, but in other cases their disposal is subsidized by a local government.

Clothing and electronics that are still in functional condition can most easily be recycled by donating them to a free service that redisburses them. In cases where the electronics are no longer viable, they may be turned in through a special electronics recycling program. Many programs exist for specific devices, such as cell phones or computers, and some manufactures include a recycling program and kit with new products. One should be aware, however, that there are certain risks involved in recycling electronic components, such a hard drives or cell phones, that may contain personal information.

Other items, such as paint, fluorescent lights, and chemically-treated wood products, may be recycled only in special facilities. Depending on the state these facilities may charge a collection fee. Nonetheless, they may be recycled if properly handled, and recycling these toxic items can greatly reduce the environmental impact on the planet.


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Post 4

I think all of the plastic containers at the fast food restaurants should be mandated to recycle. There should be a container by the garbage cans so people can put their plastics into them. They also should be mandated to recycle their cardboard. Every time I buy a salad at Wendy's, it is served in a plastic container. I recycle it, but millions of others do not. How can we start something like this?

Post 3

@GiraffeEars- I disagree with both of you. I think that recycling and waste should be synonymous. I believe we should try to recycle all waste streams. I also think that more needs to be done as far as industrial and commercial waste streams are concerned. Businesses produce most of the waste that enters landfills. Disincentives should be woven into the regulatory framework so companies are penalized for the amount of waste they produce. This would reward companies that emit little waste, reduce packaging, and increase the life of their goods.

I think that there should be electronic waste disposal surcharges that are added onto the cost of electronics. This will make consumers think a little more about the waste the

produce. We need to make recycling mandatory for businesses with more than twenty employees. Composting and cardboard recycling should be mandatory for all food service businesses. Recycling is such a mess because there is little standardization, and there is no disincentive not to recycle.
Post 2

@Babalaas- And the debate rolls on. I think that the recycling of waste is vital. Most of the minerals that we use to make our metals are limited resources that take millions to billions of years to concentrate on the earth's surface. At some point, these resources will become increasingly scarce.

What I can agree with you on is the fact that our recycling system is bulky and inefficient. We should spend less time worrying about recycling paper, and learn how to better recycle things like lithium, aluminum, chemical waste, and other energy intensive materials.

Post 1

Sometimes I wonder what the point of recycling is. I was reading an article about recycled waste being shipped to China and other developing nations where it is incinerated as cheap fuel. This all happens while we mine and drill for fossil fuels that are becoming increasingly expensive. I do think that things should be re-used and waste should be minimized, but wouldn't it make more sense if we incinerated our own waste.

I am sure that we have stricter environmental standards for the incineration of waste than these developing countries. I also cannot see it being more harmful to burn these wastes, or ferment them to create fuel than it is to burn coal, natural gas, or oil. If

I am not mistaken, Americans produce more waste than any other country, so we have a great supply of fuel. Additionally, most of the waste that is sent to these developing countries for recycling is originally manufactured from petroleum mined from the earth.

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