A lot of garbage can be recycled, or turned back into something useful. Just about any material can be recycled. The main things we recycle today are made from metal, paper, glass, or plastic.
Why Do We Recycle?
People recycle for many reasons.
- One of the main reasons is to conserve resources.
- It saves energy. To make new aluminum, for example, you need to mine metal ore from the ground, remove the impurities, and refine it into a finished metal.
- Recycling also conserves valuable land. By recycling, we produce less garbage. That means fewer landfills are needed for dumping our trash.
Because metals are somewhat costly to make, they are the world’s most recycled materials. About two-thirds of all steel is recycled.
Steel cans and scrap steel go to recycling plants where the steel is melted down. The steel is then treated with chemicals to make it pure again. Finally, it is formed into sheets or bars. These are shipped to companies that make new cans and other steel objects..
We use lots of paper, mostly in the form of newspapers, magazines, and cardboard boxes. In fact, paper takes up more space in landfills than any other material.
Old paper can be shredded and made into new paper. Each ton of recycled paper saves about 17 trees.
Glass can be recycled, too. Perhaps that is because recyclers must take extra effort to recycle glass. First, only bottle glass can be melted and made into new glass. Second, different colors of glass must be melted separately. This means bottles must be separated by color before they can be recycled.
Seven types of plastics are used to make containers and other objects for consumers. Only three types of plastic can be recycled. Each is treated in a different way.
Some wastes cannot be thrown into landfills. They are too dangerous and must be recycled or disposed of in special ways. Hazardous wastes include paint, antifreeze, medical wastes, and old tires. The most commonly recycled hazardous wastes are cleaning fluids and used motor oil.
The most dangerous wastes of all come from nuclear power plants. These wastes are radioactive. This means they give off harmful, invisible rays. The rays can cause sickness and even death.
Radioactive wastes can be recycled, but doing so is costly and poses dangers to people.
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