Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, plastic, and some electronics. Materials to be recycled are either brought to a collection center or picked up from the curbside, then sorted, cleaned, and reprocessed into new materials bound 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 bottles would be produced into new bottles. However, this is often difficult or too expensive so recycling of many products or materials involves their reuse in producing different materials like paperboard instead. Another form of recycling is the regaining of certain materials from complex products, either due to their intrinsic value like lead or car batteries, or due to their hazardous nature like things with mercury in it. Many people dispute the main economic and environmental benefits of recycling over its costs, and suggest that proponents of recycling often make matters worse and suffer from being prejudice. Specifically, critics argue that the costs and energy used in collection and transportation outweighs the costs and energy saved in the production process, and also that the jobs produced by the recycling industry can be a poor trade for the jobs lost in logging, mining, and other industries associated with original production, and that materials such as paper pulp can only be recycled a few times before material degradation prevents further recycling. Critics of recycling dispute each of these claims, and the validity of arguments from both sides has led to enduring controversy.
For a recycling program to work, having a large, stable supply of recyclable material is crucial. Three legislative options have been used to create such a supply: mandatory recycling collection, container deposit legislation, and refuse bans. Mandatory collection laws set recycling targets for cities to aim for, usually in the form that a certain percentage of a material must be diverted from the city's waste stream by a target date. The city is then responsible for working to meet this target.
Container deposit legislation involves offering a refund for the return of certain containers, typically glass, plastic, and metal. When a product in such a container is purchased, a small surcharge is added to the price. This surcharge can be reclaimed by the consumer if the container is returned to a collection point. These programs have been very successful, often resulting in an 80 percent recycling rate. Despite such good results, the shift in collection costs from local government to industry and consumers has created strong opposition to the creation of such programs in some areas.
A third method of increase supply of recyclates is to ban the disposal of certain materials as waste, often including used oil, old batteries, tires and garden waste. One aim of this method is to create a viable economy for proper disposal of banned products. Care must be taken that enough of these recycling services exist, or such bans simply lead to increased illegal dumping.
Although many government programs are concentrated on recycling at home, a large portion of waste is generated by industry. The focus of many recycling programs done by industry is the cost-effectiveness of recycling. The over-all nature of cardboard packaging makes cardboard a commonly recycled waste product by companies that deal heavily in packaged goods, like retail stores, warehouses, and distributors of goods. Other industries deal in niche or specialized products, depending on the nature of...