Why are some things recyclable and others not?

Non-recyclable materials

Well, in theory we could talk about everything (or almost everything) being recyclable… but in practice, this is not so. Are you interested in knowing why many products are not recycled correctly? Here are the main reasons:

2. When separating products by type of material, some do not have critical mass (i.e. there is not enough of them) to make recycling them worthwhile; or rather, to make recycling them efficient for recyclers.

3. When the products arrive at the recyclers, they often arrive with a mixture of different materials that are difficult to separate. Sometimes the technology does not even exist to separate the different components.

Non-recyclable waste

When done properly, recycling activities reduce the extraction and use of raw materials for new products, which has a positive impact on the environment.

In many cases, non-recyclable materials are classes of a recyclable material, such as plastic, which can be recycled, but only to a limited extent. Not all types of plastics can be recycled, for example, bags can only be recycled in some cases.

Apart from the material in which the waste was made, to be considered recyclable it must be clean and free of any contaminants such as grease or stains. Also, bear in mind that in Colombia, recyclable waste must be disposed of in the white container at the ecological points.

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This material is very important in the recycling process, since one ton of recycled cardboard saves approximately 140 liters of oil, 5,000 liters of water and 900 kilos of carbon dioxide. Thanks to the strength of cardboard, it can be used to make countless products such as boxes, packaging material, tubes, biodegradable fertilizer, wall covering panels, gift bags and paper, among others.

Recyclable and non-recyclable materials

Other recyclable materials are used according to the usual image we have in mind. For example, new cans can be made from aluminum soda cans, and more paper can be generated from waste paper.

Thanks to technological progress, there are more and more recyclable materials that we can reuse in one way or another. However, we sometimes throw things into the recycling garbage cans that we shouldn’t.

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Plastic containers of all kinds, briks, liquid containers and aluminum cans (e.g. soda or canned food). Also metal containers, such as whipped cream or shaving cream.  All of them go into the yellow container.

This is probably the most recyclable material.  Up to 100% of glass can be reused thanks to a re-melting process and, unlike other materials such as aluminum, the process can be repeated as many times as necessary.

As we can see, there are more and more recyclable materials in our lives. Companies are opting to use more and more components that can be reused. Similarly, the most complex recyclable material, such as plastic, has its days numbered in the European Union, with a ban on manufacture or import by 2020.

Recyclable materials and their use

Although we have probably already heard a lot about this topic, sometimes we get confused. Or, haven’t you ever thrown something in the colored bins when you don’t know the right way to do it?

Likewise, there are some materials that if they are very contaminated, dirty or greased, they cannot be recycled. For example: a cardboard box can be recycled but if it is wet or dirty we lose the opportunity to use it.

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To recycle there are colored bins that help us to differentiate waste, classify the garbage and separate the garbage at home by dividing it into two: the elements that can be recycled and those that cannot. This activity, known as separation at the source, facilitates the work of the people in charge of sorting materials.

Nowadays you can find collection points with colored bins in almost every place (schools, shopping malls and others). Each one has a function and so that you can memorize them we are going to help you with some keys. If you want to do it at home, ideally you should have 3 bins: