The American
Recycling System

In the United States, recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials (that would otherwise be thrown away as trash) and remanufacturing them into new products.

 While the recycling process often differs by commodity and locality, there are essentially three main steps: collection, processing and remanufacturing into a new product.

  1. Collection: Recyclable materials are generated by a consumer or business and then collected by a private hauler or government entity.
  2. Processing: The materials are transported by the collector to a processing facility, such as a materials recovery facility or paper processor. At the processing facility, the recyclables are sorted, cleaned of contaminants and prepared for transport to a milling facility or directly to a manufacturing facility. Some commodities may require additional processing for additional sorting and decontamination. For example, glass and plastic are often sent to glass beneficiation plants and plastics reclaimers, respectively, where they are processed into mill-ready forms.
  3. Remanufacturing: After all necessary processing has been completed, recyclables are made into new products at a recycling plant or other facility, such as a paper mill or bottle manufacturing facility.

Benefits of Recycling
Environmental, economic and community benefits can be attained from recycling.

For the environment, recycling:
Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators; Conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals; and prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials.
For the economy, recycling:
Increases economic security by tapping a domestic source of materials; and Saves energy.
For communities, recycling:
Supports American manufacturing and conserves valuable resources; and Helps create jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States.

Current Challenges Facing the System