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What happens to your recyclables after they leave the curb

The EPA collects information on the generation of waste and its disposal every year. This includes data on the amount recycled. In 2018, Americans produced 292.4 million tonnes of waste. This is equivalent to nearly five pounds per person per day. Of this waste, 69 million tons were recycled properly, and 25,000,000 tons were composted. This is a rate of 32% for recycling and composting.

While 93% of Americans believe recycling is important, 28% feel it’s inconvenient, and 20% don’t know a href=””>how to recycle/a properly>. Although 93% of Americans think recycling is important and 28% find it inconvenient, 20% need to learn how to recycle properly.

What can and cannot be recycled? It is essential to know what happens to recyclables after they are thrown out of your curbside bin.

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The trucks will deliver your items to the facilities.

Do you own a truck that can collect both recyclables and trash? It’s easier to believe that recycling is done correctly when they see this. This is why 16% of North Americans need more confidence in their local recycling programs.

After a truck picks up recyclables, the materials are taken to a facility that separates mixed waste by workers. This can be problematic as fluids from the trash can get into recyclables, contaminating them. It can lead to some recyclables ending up in landfills.

The district determines what happens next. Some communities are more automated. Sorting and separating recyclables can be done quickly with automation.

Sorting and Separating Items

Some districts use separate trucks to haul recycling and garbage. In this situation, the trucks take trash bags to a waste-processing facility. The waste is then processed and sent to incinerators to be burned for energy.

Trucks transport items to recycling facilities, separated into four categories: cardboard/paper, glass, metal, and plastic. Sometimes items placed in recycling containers may need to be recyclable. It is called “wish-recycling” and can cause contamination of loads.

In an automated facility, all recyclables are placed on a conveyor, where large magnets collect the metals. They then deposit them into a metal area. Paper and cardboard are collected by fans that blow them around.

Plastic items that are too small to be recycled will fall through the mesh and into trash bins as they continue down the conveyor. Plastic floats in tanks, while glass sinks. It is easy to separate the two.

Recycle Different Items

Following these general recycling practices, you can recycle plastic, glass, and cardboard/paper pallets, as well as metal pallets.


You can do a few things with cardboard and paper. You can soak them and break them down to create recycled paper products. This mixture is also good for composting and can be used if your district composts food.

Anyone who wants to raise worms, either for vermicomposting or fishing, can also use shredded cardboard and unbleached papers. You could save it first and see if hobbyists can use it before you recycle it. You can make money if you own a paper shredder. Some people sell shredded cardboard bags for up to $15.


All glass cannot be recycled. Pyrex, colored glass (reds, blues, etc.), and canning jars are often excluded from recycling. Recycling is often restricted to Pyrex, canning jars, and colored glass (red, blue, etc.). The remainder of the recycled glass is crushed and melted and used to make tiles, concrete pavers and paving projects. The glass is also used for making fiberglass insulation, beads, and other craft and jewelry items.


You can reuse aluminum and metal drink and food bottles. Scrap metal from recycling is used in building materials and appliances. This metal can be used for automobiles, trains, planes, and even airplane tracks. It depends on whether it is made of steel or aluminum.


Plastics are separated by type. Plastics are divided into 1, 2, 3, and so on. Different things are done with plastic.

  • PETE/PET : Bottles for carbonated drinks and water.
  • Bottles and bags for milk, detergents, juices, cleaners, and other products made of HDPE/PEHD
  • 3 – PVC: PVC pipes, toys, medical tubing and three-ring binder, as well as detergent bottles
  • 4 – LDPE/PELD: Dry Cleaning Bags, Bread Bags, Frozen Food Bags, Garbage bags, Hot and Cold Beverage Cups, and Food Storage Containers and Their Lids
  • 5 – PP : Baby bottles, reusable bottles, disposable diapers and food containers
  • 6 – Styrofoam and food containers
  • Other plastics and mixed plastics

Plastic pellets can be made by melting down the plastic and turning it into plastic melts. These plastic pellets are then used to create new plastic products. Purchase items made from recycled plastic to support a circular economy. Several companies now ensure that their beverage packaging contains recycled materials. California was a pioneer in recycling plastics in drink bottles in 2020. It required that drink bottles have 15% post-consumer material by 2022 and 25% by 2025.

What Happens To Contaminated Loads

What happens when a recycling load is contaminated by a foreign substance? It can happen when a bottle cleaner is not emptied before recycling. This can happen if batteries are placed in curbside recycling. This load of recyclables has been contaminated, and it is then moved into a container that will be going to the landfill.

Recycling batteries is a growing concern. The people who place them in curbside containers do not realize that they are at risk of fire. In trucks and other facilities, a punctured battery can ignite paper and cardboard. Bring all your batteries to stores such as Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and others that have recycling bins.

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Jane S. King

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