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Where Does That Recycled Material Go Anyway?

Even many avid recyclers often have only a cursory understanding of the finer aspects of the recycling process. Often times, they’ve never had the occasion to wonder about what happens to all of those recycled items after they are properly recovered. Sure, we hear vague tales about how paper gets recycled into paper, and how cans can be turned into new cans. But where does it all go? And what happens to all of those other materials?


As we mentioned, paper is among the most recycled items in the country. However, if you think that your recycled paper all ends up being dealt with in the United States, think again. In reality, almost all of it ends up getting shipped to the Far East, specifically China. It turns out that China has a voracious demand for paper, due to its lack of trees. As a result, they’re always hungry for more used paper.

Glass recycling involves grinding it down so that it can be reused to manufacture new bottles or other glass containers. Some of it also gets sent to India and China. There it is used in place of sand for construction purposes.


Aluminum cans head south where most of the nation’s big can manufacturers are based. Once there, they are super-heated to cleanse them, and then refashioned into new aluminum cans. To get an idea of just how efficient that process is, consider this: there’s a 75% chance that the aluminum can you’re drinking today is composed of aluminum that has been in use in one form or another since the late 1800s.


Plastic is asomewhat more flexible material when it comes to recycling. The plastic can be shredded into flakes so that it can be sold to companies that make containers and other plastic products. Other plastic containers end up being turned into resin that can be used to make yarn and manufacture everything from shirts to insulation and seat covers.


Steel and other metals are very high on the recycled list as well, and can be melted down and reformed into any metal product imaginable. That’s why appliance recovery is so important – well, that and the fact that you don’t want chemicals like Freon sitting in landfills or back alleys where they can pollute the environment.


The tale each recycled item could tell if it only had the voice to speak would almost certainly be riveting for the listener. These materials often end up journeying to the far ends of the world in their quest to remain useful to mankind. Once you recognize that, it becomes even more difficult to simply ignore those hundreds of millions of tons sitting in our landfills.


At the Earth Company, we’re not ignoring the issue at all. Our commitment to providing customers with the best recycled products on the market today is just one small part of our strategy for working toward sustainable living and better management of our precious planet and its resources. We’re proud to stand side by side with concerned people just like you!


Remember Those Three Rs? Here Are Three More “Rs” That you Need to Know

Most people remember learning their 3 Rs in school: reading, writing, and arithmetic. And yes, we know that two of those three begin with letters other than “r.” Nonetheless, that triad of basic skills was deemed to be – and still remains to this day – the core of any sound educational curriculum. As new awareness of environmental concerns arose, however, a new set of “Rs” was coined and quickly embraced by Americans who wanted to do their part: reduce, reuse, and recycle.


If that’s a new concept to you, then chances are that you were educated decades ago before this series of environmental concepts became more commonly known. In essence, they encourage us to reduce the amount of waste we create, reuse those things that we can, and recycle everything that can be recycled. It’s a fairly simple concept, but one that can have profound impact on the health of the planet and the living conditions we all enjoy.



Reducing waste is not just about eliminating what you throw away. It’s also reducing the potential for waste. That can require everything from buying large bulk containers to choosing options that have the least amount of packaging in the first place. You can also avoid buying disposable items like plastic razors, foam cups, and paper plates, and choose only the most durable and long-lived items you can find. Use dish towels instead of paper alternatives, and always opt for food that leaves the least amount of waste in its wake.



Reusing your old products is not as difficult as it sounds. Those paper and plastic bags can be used for storage, or simply taken into the store when you need grocery or other shopping bags. Clothes, toys, and furniture can all be sold at garage sales, or even donated so that a less-fortunate family can benefit from giving the items a second life. Plastic containers can often be used as drinking vessels, while coffee cans and other durable containers can be used for storing small items, gardening, and a host of other purposes.



This is the one most of us know by now. Very few of us are as efficient as we should be, however. To improve your recycling efforts, find a recycling center near you and visit it. Ask about the various materials they accept, so that you have a better idea of how to manage your own recycling efforts. You’ll be surprised what you can learn. Of course, you should also close the recycling loop by actively buying products made from recycled materials. That helps to ensure that recycling remains profitable enough to survive, and benefits everyone in the long run.


At the Earth Company, we know that this three-fold strategy is just one critical component that will help to propel all of us to that more sustainable future that we all envision. Thanks to the efforts of millions of committed individuals just like you, that future is getting closer every day.

Is Zero-Waste Right For You?

Many people who are old enough to remember the early days of the recycling movement remember the adage “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” That old campaign is still featured prominently in many government environmental campaigns and can be found in a host of places online. From that simple but effective strategy, a new and even more daring innovation has emerged: zero-waste. It’s a lifestyle goal that you should be aware of, since chances are that this new philosophy is headed to your community sometime in the near future.


Zero-waste takes all of the best aspects of the old 3-Rs, and adds even greater depth to the concept. When the focus was on reducing waste, reusing products, and recycling as much as you could, the only responsibilities most consumers found themselves managing was the need to limit consumption, and properly separate recyclables. With zero-waste, there is an entirely new level of consumer involvement.


At its core, zero-waste represents a new level of resistance to garbage dumps. No one has ever wanted to have landfills located near his or her home, but this movement is designed to go even further than merely resisting the rate at which landfills expand. This strategy for dealing with used items seeks to eliminate all waste and reduce the need for landfills altogether.


Zero-waste has grabbed the attention of schools, restaurants, and even homeowners. Many no longer throw away even a morsel of food. Instead, they simply toss discarded food into a bin used for compost collection. They no longer choose products like Styrofoam, opting instead for containers that are biodegradable. And they recycle everything they come into contact with.


There are even communities that are adopting ordinances to mandate recycling at this extreme level, all in attempt to deal with impending landfill crises. The positive news is that communities like Nantucket – where there is little space on the island for expanded landfills – have already proven that this can work, provided that enough attention is paid to educating the citizenry. In fact, the townspeople are zero-waste leaders, as they have managed to reduce their trash by an extreme amount. Today, only 8 percent of Nantucket’s collective trash ends up in its landfill.


It is the private sector that has picked up the baton nationwide and started to more aggressively court communities to make the switch. That is a positive development as well, since these types of efforts can all too easily be sidetracked by government intervention – especially when politics enters the equation. A number of cities in California are currently considering the move to zero-waste policies.


If you can imagine a world in which every bit of waste you create ends up being sorted into appropriate bins rather than being callously cast aside, then you have the basic understanding of this strategy that you’ll need when it comes to your area. At the Earth Company, we applaud efforts like this for their potential effects on preventing further landfill growth, and we celebrate these new types of concepts that offer us help in achieving a sustainable future.