07:15 Friday 01 March 2013

Recyling: how it works behind the scenes

Ever wondered what happens to stuff you recycle? Well here’s the answer:

After collection crews pick up your recycling they take it to a sorting factory. Here hi-tech machines sort out the paper, cardboard, steel cans, aluminium cans, glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles and tubs, old clothes, juice cartons and aluminium foil so it’s ready to be made into something new.

To make recycling easier to stack, move and transport, it’s squashed into a cube-shaped block, called a bale, before being loaded onto lorries and sold to factories all over the world.

At the factories new things are made – every day fresh supplies of recycling are needed to melt, mould, roll or shape into new objects.

Using second-hand cans, cardboard, paper, plastic and glass is much better than new trees, metal, sand and oil, because humans are using the Earth’s natural materials too quickly and they will eventually run out.

By using recycling instead, it costs less to make things, uses less electricity and water and makes less pollution in our environment.

Here are a few examples of things your recycling is made into:

Most often steel and aluminium cans are melted, made back into cans and filled with food or drink again. But old cans are also used to make cars or other metal items.

Plastics cannot be recycled over and over again. Eventually it becomes brittle causing it to crack when bent. But the old plastic can be mixed with some new plastic to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Milk bottles can be made into new bottles, or can also be moulded into items such as buckets, bowls and washing up brushes.

Plastic drinks bottles are melted to make plastic fleece fibre (similar to wool), which is woven into clothes, carpets or used to stuff duvets, pillows and toys.

Plastic food containers such as margarine tubs are chopped into flakes and melted to make plastic wood. This is used instead of real wood to make fence posts, fences and park benches.

Paper and cardboard can be recycled up to six times. Only the best newspaper and magazines are recycled back into newspaper. The best cardboard is made back into boxes. But older paper and card is picked out and sent to make tissue paper, toilet roll, and sometimes even cat litter or pet bedding.

Glass bottles and jars are sent to a glass factory where they are sorted into different colours, melted in a furnace and blown by machines into new bottles and jars. Juice cartons are sent to Sweden for recycling.

The foil and plastic layers are separated from the paper layer, which is then rolled out to make plaster board for building walls in houses.

Worn out clothes called textiles are chopped up to make a fluffy material called ‘shoddy’ which is used to stuff mattresses, car seats and sofas.

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