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Common Recyclables
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Many different materials can be recycled but each type requires a different technique.

Aggregates and concrete

Concrete aggregate collected from demolition sites is put through a crushing machine, often along with asphalt, bricks, dirt, and rocks. Smaller pieces of concrete are used as gravel for new construction projects. Crushed recycled concrete can also be used as the dry aggregate for brand new concrete if it is free of contaminants. This reduces the need for other rocks to be dug up, which in turn saves trees and habitats.

Batteries

The large variation in size and type of batteries makes their recycling extremely difficult: they must first be sorted into similar kinds and each kind requires an individual recycling process. Additionally, older batteries contain mercury and cadmium, harmful materials which must be handled with care. Because of their potential environmental damage, proper disposal of used batteries is required by law in many areas. Unfortunately, this mandate has been difficult to enforce.

Lead-acid batteries, like those used in automobiles, are relatively easy to recycle and many regions have legislation requiring vendors to accept used products. In the United States, the recycling rate is 90%, with new batteries containing up to 80% recycled material.

Biodegradable waste

Kitchen, garden and other green waste can be recycled into useful material by composting. This process allows natural aerobic bacteria to break down the waste into fertile topsoil. Much composting is done on a household scale, but municipal green-waste collection programs also exist. These programs can supplement their funding by selling the topsoil produced.

Clothing

Recycling clothes via consignment or swapping has become increasingly popular. In a clothing swap, a group of people gather at a venue to exchange clothes amongst each other. In organizations like Clothing Swap, Inc., unclaimed clothing is donated to a local charity.

Electronics disassembly and reclamation

The direct disposal of electrical equipment—such as old computers and mobile phones—is banned in many areas due to the toxic contents of certain components. The recycling process works by mechanically separating the metals, plastics and circuit boards contained in the appliance. When this is done on a large scale at an electronic waste recycling plant, component recovery can be achieved in a cost-effective manner.

Ferrous metals

Iron and steel are the world''s most recycled materials, and among the easiest materials to reprocess, as they can be separated magnetically from the waste stream. Recycling is via a steelworks: scrap is either remelted in an electric arc furnace (90-100% scrap), or used as part of the charge in a Basic Oxygen Furnace (around 25% scrap). Any grade of steel can be recycled to top quality new metal, with no ''downgrading'' from prime to lower quality materials as steel is recycled repeatedly. 42% of crude steel produced is recycled material.

Non-ferrous metals

Aluminum is one of the most efficient and widely-recycled materials. Aluminum is shredded and grounded into small pieces or crushed into bales. These pieces or bales are melted in an aluminum smelter to produce molten aluminum. By this stage the recycled aluminum is indistinguishable from virgin aluminum and further processing is identical for both. This process does not produce any change in the metal, so aluminum can be recycled indefinitely.

Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy cost of processing new aluminum. This is because the temperature necessary for melting recycled, nearly pure, aluminum is 600 °C, while to extract mined aluminum from its ore requires 900 °C. To reach this higher temperature, much more energy is needed, leading to the high environmental benefits of aluminum recycling.

Glass

Glass bottles and jars are gathered by a curbside collection truck and bottle banks, where the glass may be sorted into color categories. The collected glass cullet is taken to a glass recycling plant where it is monitored for purity and contaminants are removed. The cullet is crushed and added to a raw material mix in a melting furnace. It is then mechanically blown or molded into new jars or bottles. Glass cullet is also used in the construction industry for aggregate and glassphalt. Glassphalt is a road-laying material which comprises around 30% recycled glass. Glass can be recycled indefinitely as its structure does not deteriorate when reprocessed.

Paper

Paper can be recycled by reducing it to pulp and combing it with pulp from newly harvested wood. As the recycling process causes the paper fibres to breakdown, each time paper is recycled its quality decreases. This means that either a higher percentage of new fibres must be added, or the paper downcycled into lower quality products. Any writing or colouration of the paper must first be removed by deinking, which also removes fillers, clays, and fiber fragments.

Almost all paper can be recycled today, but some types are harder to recycle than others. Papers coated with plastic or aluminum foil, and papers that are waxed, pasted, or gummed are usually not recycled because the process is too expensive. Gift wrap paper also cannot be recycled due to its already poor quality.

Sometimes recyclers ask for the removal of the glossy inserts from newspapers because they are a different type of paper. Glossy inserts have a heavy clay coating that some paper mills cannot accept. Most of the clay is removed from the recycled pulp as sludge which must be disposed of. If the coated paper is 20% by weight clay, then each ton of glossy paper produces more than 200 kg of sludge and less than 800 kg of fiber.

Plastic

Plastic recycling is the process of recovering scrap or waste plastics and reprocessing the material into useful products. Compared to glass or metallic materials, plastic poses unique challenges. Because of the massive number of types of plastic, they each carry a resin identification code, and must be sorted before they can be recycled. This can be costly; while metals can be sorted using electromagnets, no such ''easy sorting'' capability exists for plastics. In addition to this, while labels do not need to be removed from bottles for recycling, lids are often made from a different kind of non-recyclable plastic.

Textiles

When considering textile recycling one must understand what the material consists of. Most textiles are composites of cotton (biodegradable material) and synthetic plastics. The textile''s composition will affect its durability and method of recycling.

Workers sort and separate collected textiles into good quality clothing and shoes which can be reused or worn. There is a trend of moving these facilities from developed countries to developing countries either for charity or sold at a cheaper price. Many international organisations collect used textiles from developed countries as a donation to those third world countries. This recycling practise is encouraged because it helps to reduce unwanted waste while providing clothing to those in need. Damaged textiles are further sorted into grades to make industrial wiping cloths and for use in paper manufacture or material suitable for fibre reclamation and filling products. If textile reprocessors receive wet or soiled clothes however, these may still be disposed of in a landfill, as the washing and drying facilities are not present at sorting units.

Fibre reclamation mills sort textiles according to fibre type and colour. Colour sorting eliminates the need to re-dye the recycled textiles. The textiles are shredded into "shoddy" fibres and blended with other selected fibres, depending on the intended end use of the recycled yarn. The blended mixture is carded to clean and mix the fibres and spun ready for weaving or knitting. The fibres can also be compressed for mattress production. Textiles sent to the flocking industry are shredded to make filling material for car insulation, roofing felts, loudspeaker cones, panel linings and furniture padding.

Timber

Recycling timber has become popular due to its image as an environmentally friendly product, with consumers commonly believing that by purchasing recycled wood the demand for green timber will fall and ultimately benefit the environment. Greenpeace also view recycled timber as an environmentally friendly product, citing it as the most preferable timber source on their website. The arrival of recycled timber as a construction product has been important in both raising industry and consumer awareness towards deforestation and promoting timber mills to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.

Wood recycling is a subject which has in recent years taken an ever greater role in our lives. The problem, however, is that although many local authorities like the idea of recycling, they do not fully support it. One of the countless examples, which has been in the news is the concept of actually recycling wood which is growing in the cities. Namely, recycling timber, trees and other sources.

Other Techniques

Several other materials are also commonly recycled, frequently at an industrial level.

Ship breaking is one example that has associated environmental, health, and safety risks for the area where the operation takes place; balancing all these considerations is an environmental justice problem.

Tire recycling is also common. Used tires can be added to asphalt for producing road surfaces or to make rubber mulch used on playgrounds for safety. They are also often used as the insulation and heat absorbing/releasing material in specially constructed homes known as earthships.