If you're used to thinking of recycled paper as being dingy or recycled plastic as being weak or making discolored products, then you don't know modern recycling. The reincarnation of certain materials through recycling means they will live forever.
Glass can be recycled endlessly with no loss of quality. The industry term for scrap glass that's furnace-ready is cullet, and the only material used more than cullet is sand. Cullet is always an important ingredient in glass, which decreases the amount of energy required. Glass containers are 100 percent recyclable, but they need to be separated from other kinds of glass like windows, ovenware, crystal and Pyrex. Recycled glass that's unable to be used in new glass bottles and jars is often used for non-container glass products like tile, sand blasting, filtration, concrete pavements and parking lots.
If you want to truly dig in to the idea of recycling, consider metals. Companies like Federal Metals Inc., a company that recycles stainless steel in Calgary, provide recycled metals to manufacturers. Most recycling plants pay for the metals brought to them, and they pay the most for copper. You'll generally get more money for non-ferrous metals which have less iron in them, and materials like aluminum, brass, lead, copper or stainless steel will get your more money for your recycling effort. Stainless steel is 100 percent recyclable. It's sorted from other recyclable metals, compacted into large blocks, cut into small pieces and is finally melted down. Today, the average object made of stainless steel is almost 60 percent recycled material.
Electronics are mined for metals like god and copper which are eventually turned into new components, and the staggering amount of outdated electronics is measured in tons. Cellphones contain silver, gold, palladium, platinum, copper, zinc and tin which is recovered in the recycling process and is used to make jewelry, electronics and plating. The plastic from TV shells, computer cases and other electronics is used to make new plastic products like license plate frames, garden furniture and non-food containers.
Plastics are separated by resin type and then shredded and melted into pellets. Of the seven resin types, numbers one and two are most commonly picked up through curbside programs. Resin type number one is recycled into polar fleece, tote bags, furniture and carpeting. Resin number two is recycled into pens, recycling containers, floor tile, picnic tables, and drainage pipe.
If you recycle to make a few extra dollars collecting scrap metal or plastic bottles, great. If you do it because you know it's the right thing to do, good for you. It doesn't matter why you recycle, it just matters that you do.