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"What does 'Recyclable' Actually Mean?"

By Emily Rackow September 03, 2019

What does Recyclable Actually Mean


Everyone knows you should be recycling. You see those big blue recycling bins everywhere, you see the tell-tale arrows, you hear “is this recyclable?” But what exactly does ‘recyclable’ mean? What happens to those cans, bottles, and pieces of paper you dump in recycling bins? Have you been recycling everything you can? Have you accidentally been recycling something you shouldn't?

Wowe Lifestyle is all about recyclable. We sell products made from both recyclable and biodegradable materials, and all of our packaging is plastic free and recyclable! We take recycling seriously, but we understand that not everyone has the time, knowledge, or resources to recycle every little thing. In this article, we want to talk about what recycling is, how it works, what you should be recycling, and then share some fun facts about recycling around the world!

What is Recycling?

‘Recycling’ refers to a process by which ‘waste’ is turned into new materials or products. Basically, recycling is the process of turning trash into usable material.

By recycling rather than throwing waste away, materials that contain potentially harmful chemicals are kept out of the environment, and no new resources need to be used in order to create new materials. Using fewer resources means lower greenhouse gas emissions, preservation of more natural resources, and helps keep unnecessary waste from piling up in landfills around large urban and suburban areas.

Yes we know, this all sounds pretty serious. We take recycling seriously and want you to too, but we also want you to enjoy keeping Earth clean! At Wowe, we make and sell products to make living green easier. We also share our knowledge and thoughts on green living so you can see how easy and rewarding eco-conscious living can be. So let’s get down to some basics of recycling!

When it comes to recycling at home, here’s how it works:

  1. Collection

The process of collecting recyclables is the first step to take your trash and turn it into treasure. Depending on where you live, your recycling may be picked up from the curb, you may need to bring it to a drop off center, or in some cases, you may be able to turn in recyclables for cash or rewards.

Pro Tip: Before your recycling is picked up, remember to clean everything! The cleaner your recyclables are, the more likely it is that they will actually end up being recycled.

  1. Sorting

Once your recycling leaves your home it is brought to a recycling facility for cleaning, sorting, and processing. Sorting is done by hand and by machines, going through several phases in order to remove non-recyclables mixed into collected recycling as well as fragments that are too small or materials that are too dirty. Sorting is also done to separate types of recyclables in order to prepare them for processing.

  1. Processing

Once sorted, the actual recycling process can begin. Individual batches of different kinds of recyclables are processed in a variety of methods in order to return them to a usable state. Recyclables are washed, melted, chopped, crushed, mixed, and so on in order to create “raw” usable recycled material.

  1. Sale

Recycled materials are bought and sold in the same way other goods or materials are bought and sold. These materials are shipped all over the world to be used by people and businesses creating new things.

  1. Resale to Consumers

Some recycled materials are used for commercial purposes, others are turned into consumer goods and resold to you, the customer! Where can you find these recycled materials? Well, for one, Wowe packages all of our products in plastic-free packaging made from recycled paper.

Recyclables

Now that you understand what recycling is and how it works, you are probably wondering what kinds of materials are recyclable. Here are 6 types of recyclables with a few details on how they are processed and reused:

  1. E-Waste

E-waste refers to used, broken, and discarded electronics. This can include batteries, cell phones, metal parts, cables, circuit boards etc. are collected for parts and materials, then sold to different plants for processing. The metals used in electronics like copper, gold, and tin are melted down and reused, and plastics are similarly processed at plastics facilities.

  1. Glass

Glass bottles, jars, containers, and more are recyclable items that are fairly easy to process. The glass is sorted by color, then crushed and melted to be made into new glass products.

  1. Metal

Metals like the very popular aluminum are another easy material to process and recycle. Metal products are melted down and sold to be reused by manufacturers.

  1. Paper

Paper is washed to remove inks, glue, and dyes then shredded and mixed into a slurry. The paper slurry is then formed into paper, cardboard, newsprint etc. This is the process that Wowe’s paper packaging goes through before it becomes packaging!

  1. Plastic

Plastic must be sorted by type and color, making it a little more difficult to process. Mixed plastics cannot be recycled, and many plastic products are simply too small or light to be processed at recycling facilities. Once sorted, plastics are chopped and made into pellets or fibers to be sold and used by manufacturers.

Recycling Fun Facts!

Whoever thought recycling could be so fun? People are reusing and recycling all over the world, and we love the ways our U.S. and international neighbors repurpose their waste. Here are some interesting and (we think) fun facts about recycling:

  1. China is the biggest importer of recycled raw materials, and spend over $3.1 billion annually to import these materials from the U.S.
  2. Germany recycles more than 45% of their municipal waste. Another 38% is burned, and another 17% is composted. With less than 3% of their waste being buried in landfills, Germany is by far the most advanced country in terms of eco-friendly waste management.
  3. The average American uses 7 trees per year in paper products. This number could easily be reduced simply by recycling paper products.
  4. In Japan, recycling is a serious business that you can receive a formal warning from the city on should you break the rules. Recyclables are meticulously sorted into separate binds, bags, and piles, specific to their type, size, and shape. Special items like batteries, ceramic, old clothes, and lightbulbs have special pickup days, typically only once a month.

If you enjoy learning about recycling and other ways to live green, check out the Wowe Lifestyle blog! Wowe also sells tons of awesome eco-friendly products to help make everyday life a little more sustainable.


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