What is the most recyclable product?

Did you know that steel is the most recycled material in the world? In North America, we recycle around 80 million tons of steel every year. That's more than the weight of all the cars in the entire state of California. It's also more than all the paper, plastic, aluminum and glass that we recycle every year together. When you bring in steel, you can recycle other types of scrap at the same time, such as aluminum, copper, brass, and cast iron.

One ton of recycled glass saves 42 kWh of energy and two cubic yards of landfill space, and recycling glass is 33 percent more energy efficient than creating new glass. Second, unlike recycled paper or glass, which degrade when recycled, steel doesn't lose strength when remelted to make new steel, so it doesn't lose any of its value. Magazines, newspapers and office papers can generally be recycled, but not all paper products are recyclable. And while some people argue that recycling plastic is a lost cause due to its tendency to weaken during reprocessing, manufacturing plastic from new materials requires the complicated task of extracting oil and natural gas.

The company Emeco has designed an elegant, albeit bright, chair made with 80 percent recycled aluminum called chair 20-06.Sometimes touted as a recycling success story, aluminum cans are not only the most frequently recycled product, but also the most cost-effective and the most energy efficient. Used cooking oil from fried foods is also processed into glycerol and biodiesel for use as fuel and other products, says Ryan Cooper, waste diversion manager and leader in recycling organic products at Rubicon Global. The recycling of aluminum, which is manufactured from bauxite ore, is a closed-cycle process, meaning that no new materials are introduced into the process.

Vickie Zaidel
Vickie Zaidel

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