General Recycling FAQs
- Does a recycling logo mean an item is recycled?
- What do the numbers inside a recycling logo mean?
- What does "recyclable" mean?
- What’s the difference between curbside and drop-off recycling?
- What are the “3Rs"?
- What does “closing the loop” mean?
- What is the difference between pre- and post-consumer recycled materials?
- What percentage recycled content should I look for?
- Where can I buy recycled products?
- What recycled products are available?
- Where do recyclables go?
- How are aluminum cans recycled?
- What are aluminum cans recycled into?
- How is newspaper recycled?
- What does newspaper get recycled into?
- How is glass recycled?
- What does glass get recycled into?
- How are steel (tin) cans recycled?
- What do steel (tin) cans get recycled into?
- How are cardboard boxes recycled?
- What is cardboard recycled into?
- How is paper recycled?
- What is paper recycled into?
- How are plastic bottles recycled?
- What are plastic bottles recycled into?
1. Does a recycling logo mean an item is recycled?
Sometimes. A recycling logo means either that an item can be recycled, or that it is made with recycled materials.
2. What do the numbers inside a recycling logo mean?
Most plastic items are marked with a recycling logo containing a number from 1 to 7. The logo does not necessarily mean that the item can be recycled in your area. The plastics industry uses the logo to indicate the type of resin. For example, a water bottle is marked #1 which indicates that it is made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic. A milk jug is marked #2 which indicates that it is made of HDPE (high density polyethylene) plastic. Visit Where Can I Recycle? to find out which plastic items are recycled in your local neighborhood. For more information on plastic recycling, visit Earth911.
3. What does recyclable mean?
Recyclable indicates that a product may be recycled. It does not mean that an item is made with recycled content. Residents can check our online recycling guide to see if the product can be recycled locally.
4. What’s the difference between curbside and drop-off recycling?
- Curbside recycling program: An individual or business places recyclable materials in a container and takes it to at the curb for pickup on a designated day.
- Drop-off recycling program: An individual or business collects recyclable items and transports them to a site with recycling containers.
5. What are the “3Rs”?
- Reduce – Decrease the garbage you generate.
- Reuse – Use an item again instead of throwing it away.
- Recycle – Take an item that would usually be put in the trash and transform it into a new product.
6. What does “closing the loop” mean?
Buying a recycled product is referred to as “closing the loop” because it completes the recycling process. The recycling process includes three steps:
1) Collect recyclable items such as cans or bottles.
2) Process items into new products.
3) Buy products containing recycled materials.
Merely collecting recyclables is not enough. We need to buy products containing recycled materials in order to create markets. A recycled product is made from a material that was once something else (such as recycled polyester carpet is made from plastic bottles).
7. What is the difference between pre- and post-consumer recycled materials?
Pre-consumer materials (or post-industrial) are factory trimmings or overruns such as paper scraps at a paper mill which are routinely recycled. Post-consumer materials means a product has been used by a consumer (such as yesterday’s newspaper) and collected to be recycled. Look for post-consumer recycled materials whenever possible.
8. What percentage recycled content should I look for?
Items rarely have 100% recycled content, but look for the highest percentage possible. For example, copy paper with a minimum of 30% post-consumer content is readily available at a competitive price.
9. Where can I buy recycled products?
Many places. It is easy to find products with recycled content. The same way you scan a label for calories or fat content, you can check for recycled content. Look on the label for the chasing arrows logo and words such as “contains 50% recycled paper.”
10. What recycled products are available?
Recycled paper products such as facial tissue, paper towels, copy paper, and food packaging are readily available. Other items with recycled content, such as polyester carpeting, may not be identified as such on a package label, but you can always ask a sales associate or store manager whether an item has recycled content.
11. Where do recyclables go?
Materials go to an intermediate processor to be prepared for markets, and then are shipped to various manufacturers. For example, newspaper is baled and then shipped to a paper mill to be shredded, pulped, and made into new products.
12. How are aluminum cans recycled?
Aluminum cans are shredded into small “metal potato chips”, melted, rolled, and cut into new cans. The aluminum can you recycle today could be back on the store shelves as a “new” can in just 60 days!
13. What are aluminum cans recycled into?
Aluminum cans may be recycled into “new” cans or other aluminum products such as lawn chairs, window frames, pie pans, foil, car parts, or house siding.
14. How is newspaper recycled?
Newspapers are shredded, mixed with water (pulped), screened, aerated (air is pumped in to remove the ink), bleached, and flattened into sheets.
15. What does newspaper get recycled into?
The most common use for recycled newspaper is “new” newspaper. It may also be recycled into paper products such as game boards, animal bedding, puzzles, telephone books, or egg cartons.
16. How is glass recycled?
Glass is crushed into tiny pieces (cullet); mixed with sand, ash, and limestone; melted, poured into molds; and cooled.
17. What does glass get recycled into?
Recycled glass products include “new” jars and bottles, tiles, road paving, marbles, jewelry, and fiberglass insulation. Glass may be recycled an infinite number of times since it never loses strength.
18. How are steel (tin) cans recycled?
First, any tin coating on the inside of the can (to protect the food) is removed with a caustic solution to be recycled separately. The steel is then rinsed, melted in a furnace, flattened into sheets, and sold to a steel mill.
19. What do steel (tin) cans get recycled into?
Steel cans may be recycled into “new” cans, vehicle parts, toys, appliances (such as refrigerators), fire hydrants, or tools. All steel products contain some recycled material—usually at least 25%! Steel never loses quality or strength so it can be endlessly recycled.
20. How are cardboard boxes recycled?
The process to recycle cardboard is similar to newspaper. The cardboard is mixed with water (pulped), processed to remove contaminants such as metal fasteners, screened, pressed into sheets, and dried.
21. What is cardboard recycled into?
Cardboard boxes may be recycled into “new” boxes or packaging, brown paper bags, mailing tubes, or paperboard (such as cereal or shoe boxes).
22. How is paper recycled?
The process to recycle paper is similar to cardboard or newspaper. Paper is shredded, mixed with water (pulped), cleaned, screened (to remove contaminants such as plastic windows on envelopes), flattened on wire screens, and dried. Paper can normally be recycled 5-7 times before it loses strength. Paper is the #1 item we throw away in the United States (about one-third of the waste stream).
23. What is paper recycled into?
Mixed paper may be recycled into “new” paper, tissues, napkins, paper towels, cat litter (really!), or school supplies such as folders, index cards, or notebooks.
24. How are plastic bottles recycled?
Plastic bottles are shredded into tiny flakes, processed in a flotation tank to remove contaminants such as labels, heated, washed, melted, forced through an extruder to create long strands, cooled, and cut into pellets.
25. What are plastic bottles recycled into?
Plastic bottles may be recycled into “new” bottles, carpet, park benches, picnic tables, pipes, flowerpots, t-shirts, fleece jackets, or sleeping bags. It takes five 2-liter plastic bottles to make one recycled ski jacket. Over half the polyester carpet in the U.S. is made from recycled plastic!