Recycling – How Does It Work?

Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics

This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, we’ll have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. It’s a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment — or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.

Recycling is one of the most important things we can do to preserve our planet. On a daily basis, more than 100 million Americans participate in recycling used and old materials in their household and offices.

Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. Collecting used bottles, cans, and newspapers and taking them to the curb or to a collection facility is just the first in a series of steps that generates a host of financial, environmental, and social returns. Some of these benefits accrue locally as well as globally.

Benefits of Recycling
•    Recycling protects and expands US manufacturing jobs and increases US competitiveness.also
•    Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
•    Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials.
•    Recycling saves energy.
•    Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
•    Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals.
•    Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.

How Recycling Works

1.  Collecting and Processing – 
Collecting recyclables varies from community to community, but there are four primary methods: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs. Once collected, recyclables are sent to a materials recovery facility to be sorted and prepared into marketable commodities for manufacturing. Recyclables are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and prices for the materials change and fluctuate with the market.

2. Manufacturing – Once cleaned and separated, the recyclables are ready to undergo the next stage. More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with total or partial recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers and paper towels; aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers; steel cans; and plastic laundry detergent bottles.

3. Purchasing – Purchasing recycled products completes the recycling loop. By “buying recycled,” governments, as well as businesses and individual consumers, each play an important role in making the recycling process a success. As consumers demand more environmentally sound products, manufacturers will continue to meet that demand by producing high-quality recycled products.

More Than Just The 3 Rs

Recycling is actually the third – and last – of the “3 Rs”: reduce, reuse, recycle. Together these three words make up the most effective way to cut down on the amount of waste we produce. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of waste each person creates has almost doubled since 1960, from 2.7 to 4.6 pounds a day.

So here’s an idea: how about we reduce our waste by purchasing less in the first place? Then we can find ways to reuse things we purchase, which delays or even prevents them from ending up in a landfill.

Though recycling is far better for the planet than throwing things into the regular garbage, it still uses resources and causes pollution. Let’s hear it for reducing and reusing!

What do you think?

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Photo Credit: andyarthur


paul h.
paul h6 years ago

here is a recycling horror story

could save your life!

Melissa Willardson
Mel Willardson6 years ago

I wish we could recycle glass near where I live as right now it is a two hour drive. Everything else I recycle. But as the article says it all starts with being a responsible buyer and only purchasing what you need and only things that support the planet's well being. Then reuse it and if you don't have need for it anymore then find it a good home before you consider recycling it.

Sheri P.
Sheri P6 years ago

reduce, reduce, reduce! when you can no longer reduce then you must reuse, reuse, reuse. then repair. after all of that then you recycle...

Christine Stewart

I hate the companies who greenwash and claim that their product is recyclable, but it itself is not made of recycled material. Recycling is useful only if products are actually made with the recycled material!

Miles Foster6 years ago

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and REPAIR. But the greatest of these is REDUCE.

We can not keep consuming the Earth's resources at this ever-increasing pace. Live more frugally. Be content with less. The best things in life, after all, are FREE.

Above all, we need to reduce the rate of increase in global population. Long term we need to reduce the population. And this can only come about through the education and empowerment of all who are in thrall to outdated attitudes to procreation, birth control and the position of women in our world. Put women in charge of their own bodies.

Arild Warud

I recycle all my garbage and I would urge all of you to the same.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

It is a good habit to get into.

Unusable Lost Account
Past Member 6 years ago


Stephanie Hungerford

I think that everything that can be recycled should be recycled but I live in an area were it isn't possible because of distance and the fact I do not have a car

J.L. A.
JL A6 years ago

good reminders