Recycling is a process to convert waste materials into reusable material to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution and water pollution by reducing the need for conventional waste disposal and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to plastic production.
Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, metal, plastic, tires, textiles and electronics. The composting or other reuse of biodegradable waste—such as food or garden waste—is also considered recycling.
Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle waste hierarchy.
Materials to be recycled are either brought to a collection centre or picked up from the curbside, then sorted, cleaned and reprocessed into new materials destined for manufacturing.
In the strictest sense, recycling of a material would produce a fresh supply of the same material—for example, used office paper would be converted into new office paper, or used polystyrene foam into new polystyrene.
However, this is often difficult or too expensive (compared with producing the same product from raw materials or other sources), so « recycling » of many products or materials involves their reuse in producing different materials (for example, paperboard) instead.
Another form of recycling is the salvage of certain materials from complex products, either due to their intrinsic value (such as lead from car batteries, or gold from circuit boards), or due to their hazardous nature (e.g., removal and reuse of mercury from thermometers and thermostats).
Quality of recyclate
Recyclate is a raw material that is sent to, and processed in a waste recycling plant or materials recovery facility which will be used to form new products.
The material is collected in various methods and delivered to a facility where it undergoes re-manufacturing so that it can used in the production of new materials or products.
The Recyclate Quality Action Plan of Scotland sets out a number of proposed actions that the Scottish Government would like to take forward in order to drive up the quality of the materials being collected before being exported or sold on to the reprocessing market. The plan’s objectives are to:
- Drive up the quality of recyclate.
- Provide help to those contracting with materials recycling facilities to identify what is required of them
- Deliver greater transparency about the quality of recyclate.
- Address and reduce issues surrounding the Waste Shipment Regulations.
The plan focuses on three key areas, with fourteen actions which were identified to increase the quality of materials collected, sorted and presented to the processing market in Scotland.