Recycled And Recyclable Products: What Is The Difference And Why They Matter?

Recycled vs Recyclable

Recycled and recyclable products have been on the rise in recent years as businesses strive to lessen their overall environmental impact. But what is the difference between the two? In this post, we will explore the differences between recycled and recyclable products, their benefits, and how you can use them repeatedly. Read on.

Recycled vs Recyclable: What's The Difference?

Recycled products are items collected from waste materials and processed to be reused as raw materials. A crushed metal can salvaged from a junkyard and turned into a soda container is a good example of this.

On the other hand, recyclable products come from virgin (unused) raw materials. Once they are discarded and collected, they are repurposed into new products. In other words, recyclable products are those that have NOT been recycled before and CAN be recycled. One example of this is an aluminum soda can made directly from bauxite ore.

What Are The Recycling Symbols for Recycled and Recyclable Products?

There are different recycling symbols on products, and it can be challenging to figure out precisely what each sign means. Here are some common symbols:

RIC Labels

 RIC labels

📷 From http://guides.stopwaste.org/  

You’ve probably seen these recycling symbols around; either three bent arrows forming a triangle or a solid triangular symbol. Within the triangle is a series of numbers (1-7) called the Resin Identification Code. The number indicates the type of plastic resin and how to recycle it.  Here's what the RIC labels mean:

  • 1(PET), 2(HDPE), and 5(PP) = easiest to recycle
  • 3(PVC) and 6(PS) = hard to recycle
  • 4(LDPE) and 7(Miscellaneous) = only recyclable at designated facilities.

Always remember to empty the containers and rinse off any food residue before taking it for recycling.

How2Recycle Labels

 

📷 From How2Recycle Official FB Pag

How2Recycle is a standardized labeling system that helps consumers dispose of their trash responsibly through clear and concise labels on the packaging. Check out some of the labels here. How2Recycle partners with like-minded businesses across the spectrum to provide convenient drop-off locations where you can deposit the waste.    

PCR Labels

pcr label

📷 From https://www.greenbiz.com/

A Post-consumer recycled (PCR) symbol means that the product is made from material collected from consumers or businesses through a recycling program. A PCR label will sometimes include a percentage of the product’s content extracted from recycled materials.

How can I recycle or dispose of recycled and recyclable products?

Proper disposal of your recycled products is essential to your social and environmental responsibility. Here is how you can do it:

Curbside Recycling

Curbside recycling is a service that collects and disposes of home garbage and recyclables. Here, recycling bins are conveniently placed on exits where they are typically picked up every week. But, before tossing any product into these bins, always check with the local authority for guidelines. Some products, such as styrofoam, are considered too costly or hard to process and cannot be recycled locally.

Moreover, other jurisdictions have imposed bans on the disposal of certain products. For instance, the State of Massachusetts prohibits the disposal of single resin narrow-necked bottles and glass bottles in trash bins.

Recycling Centers

A recycling center is a company or other organization that collects, stores, buys, and sells recyclable materials like newspapers and old cans, bottles, and other plastic containers so that they can be repurposed. You can search for a recycling depot or center near you to drop off recyclable products. 

Store Drop-offs

Store drop-offs are common in retail and grocery stores. The plastic bags and wrappings they use are usually not recyclable curbside. Because of this, they designate unique places within their premises where you can conveniently drop them off. 

Some of the stores with these facilities include Walmart, and Target, notably through its partnership with Repreve. Products may be dropped off for recycling even if they were not purchased from the store.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Recycled Products?

Here are some of the benefits of using recycled products for businesses, customers, and, most importantly, the environment:

Aids In Conservation of Natural Resources

Natural reserves for minerals are finite and rapidly diminishing. When we recycle more, it reduces the exploitation of these resources to create new products. For example, recycling steel products helps save on mining thousands of pounds of iron ore, limestone, and coal.

Recycled steel has the same value and sturdiness as new steel ore, and you will still get value for money with a lesser carbon footprint. On top of that, our forests will be safer with lesser virgin paper required to make cardboard and other paper products.

Helps Reduce Pollution

Most of our trash ends up in landmasses and waterways, with only a fraction ending up in materials recovery facilities (MRFs). Our oceans are now full of microplastics which have been detrimental to marine life. Burning these refuse in the MRFs produces harmful gas emissions, which are just as bad as the decomposing items in landfills.

Recycled products effectively reduce waste going to recycling facilities, which means fewer greenhouse gasses. 

For example, a ton of re-melted glass saves up to 246 kg of carbon dioxide emissions. Besides, less trash in landfills leaching into the ground and water helps us preserve our ecosystem.

Using Recycled Products is Energy-efficient

Simply put, you require much more energy to create a new product in comparison to using a recycled product. Recycling aluminum products can save up to 95% of the energy needed to process the metal from scratch. Plastic products also require significant energy levels to transform into new commodities.

Promotes Job Creation

Manufacturers respond to buyers’ needs. An increase in demand for products with recycled content will push the firms to scale up their operations to meet the demand. Moreover, adding more recycling facilities will increase job opportunities in the communities.

To put it into context, in a 2016 EPA report, recycling programs across the country accounted for 681,000 jobs annually and generated $5.5 billion in tax revenue. 

If we push for more sustainable products, the number of jobs will go up, improving society’s living standards and also promoting the development of local towns and cities.

Can Recycled Products Be Recycled Again and Again?

You can recycle many common items over and over again, with substantial savings in energy and natural resources. The number of times a product can be recycled primarily depends on the type of material.

Metals

Metals make the most durable recyclable products. You can recycle them over and over again without the material degrading. The quality of most recycled products is just as good as new products. Aluminum cans have consistently shown the highest value among recycled metallic commodities due to their excellent corrosion resistance and impermeability.

Glass

There is no limit to how many times you can recycle glass products. Unlike most materials, glass quality doesn't degrade no matter how often you crush, melt, and mold it into new products. Besides, glass has limitless applications both in domestic and business settings.

However, the integrity of some glass products has been compromised through fusion with other materials or garnishing. This makes it hard to recycle these types of glasses. These include; mirrors, eyeglasses, Pyrex baking dishes, glass art, and fluorescent lighting tubes.

Paper

Paper products can be recycled continuously up to seven times before the paper fibers are too far gone to make a new product. The degradation of the fibers steadily happens each time the paper is recycled, and so does the quality. However, even low-grade fibers can make packing inserts and egg cartons.

Plastic

Often, you can only recycle plastic once or twice. The sturdiness of the plastic material wanes as the polymers break down in the recycling process. Consequently, the new recycled plastic products are usually used for lightweight household items, but we do not recommend using them for food storage containers.

What Are The Disadvantages of Recycled Products?

While recycling has significant benefits for waste management, it is not all rosy. Here is why:

Cost Factor

The cost of recycling some products can sometimes outweigh its benefits. It is usually cheaper to throw them in landfills than to recycle them.

For instance, most towns in the U.S. chose not to recycle glass products citing budget constraints. Moreover, recycling without having a ready market for the new effects makes the venture unattractive.

Different Recycling Procedures

There is no central recycling program for all recycled products. You can do some products curbside, while others require special facilities. Average consumers find this process of sorting trash out time-consuming. Contaminants can spoil the entire batch of recycled products or lead to machines jamming in the recycling facilities.

The Products Eventually End Up In Landfills

While you can recycle plastic products, they don't last very long. Sooner rather than later, you have to throw away recycled plastic products since they are usually of lesser quality. Plastic recycling is costly and requires a lot of water.

Consequently, plastic products end up in landfills, with less than 15% incinerated. The incineration produces tons of greenhouse gases which, rather than helping heal the environment, makes it worse.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, recycled and recyclable products are definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to sustainability. They lessen overall environmental effects while also helping businesses take a small but important step forward into becoming more environmentally conscious. Sure, recycling and recycling goods will not solve the entire environmental crisis overnight. Still, increasing their use is a positive move that can make an incredible impact. 

Make An Impack

Looking to go one step further with your sustainability efforts? Our recyclable mailer bags are made of high-quality, sustainable materials. Not only are they recyclable, but in the case that they aren't collected and end up as trash, they will just decompose into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass — without leaving any hazardous residues or microplastics behind. Check out our products by clicking here!

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