How our recycling is radically transformed…
What goes around, comes around”, as the old proverb goes. True of good deeds; brilliantly, it’s also true of our recycling. As the technology for processing used materials improves, we’re seeing more and more exciting transformations occurring to the stuff we put into our recycling boxes.
Let’s learn how to recognise our recycling in a completely new guise…!
>> Our leftovers from baking a cake become electricity
How it works: Our food waste is collected and transported to an ‘anaerobic digestion plant’, where the waste is stored in sealed tanks. As the food breaks down, it produces a biogas that can be captured and used to produce electricity, heat and a green fuel for transport. As this renewable tech develops, we could see our leftovers playing a big part in keeping down our electricity bills!
>> Our shampoo bottles become sports shirts
How it works: Our recycled shampoo bottles are collected and cleaned. Chopped up into tiny pieces, they’re taken to a chemical plant to be melted down into polyester gloop. This gooey substance is spurn into yarn, from which the fabric of the shirts is woven. Each of the Nike shirts worn at the last football World Cup were made from eight plastic bottles!
And another bonus? When the shirts come to the end of their lives, they can in turn be melted down to produce more shirts, or even another set of shampoo bottles…
>> Our aerosol cans become mobile phones
How it works: Our used aerosol cans get taken away with the rest of our kerbside recycling. At the recycling plant, they’re sorted into metal types: steel or aluminium, both of which can be recycled infinitely without degrading.
The metal parts go through a re-melt process, which removes the coatings and inks that may be present on the sides of the aerosol. The molten metals are then pouored into moulds, creating large blocks called ingots. Each ingot contains about 1.6 million cans. These are taken to manufacturing plants where they can be rolled out into huge sheets and moulded into new products: new aerosols, drinks cans and, yes, mobile phone casings. In as little as eight weeks, the metal from our aerosol cans can be back on the shelf in a new product.
>> Our toothpaste box becomes a box of chocolates
How it works: Empty cardboard toothpaste boxes are squashed down flat to go into our recycling. When your recycling gets sorted at the depot, your toothpaste box joins the huge bales of cardboard material collected every day from our homes and businesses.
These bales are transported to one of the UK’s 49 paper mills, where the inks and other coatings are washed off before the card is ‘re-pulped’ until a kind of paper slurry forms. This is sent through a variety of machines to remove any contaminants that may have accompanied the cardboard on its journey, such as metal staples, plastic tape and string. The cleaned slurry can be dried and rolled into sheets of various thicknesses, from thin paper used for newspapers to the stiff card used to package our favourite box of chocolates.
Greenredeem members, why don’t you login to your account now for a quick check of what you can recycle in your kerbside box and where you can recycle in your local area? Just look for the ‘Nearby Recycling’ tab on your account page.