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the process of recovering and reusing waste products—from household use, manufacturing, agriculture, and business—and thereby reducing their burden on the environment. During World War I and World War II, shortages of essential materials led to collection drives for silk, rubber, and other commodities. In recent years the environmental benefits of recycling have become a major component of waste management programs.

Waste Disposal and Recycling

For many years direct recycling by producers of surplus and defective materials constituted the main form of recycling. However, indirect recycling, the recycling of materials after their use by consumers, became the focus of activity in the 1990s. For some time, most solid wastesolid waste,
discarded materials other than fluids. In the United States in 1996, nearly 210 million tons—about 4.3 lb. (2 kg) per person daily (up from 2.7 lb./1.2 kg in 1960)—were collected and disposed of by municipalities.
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 has been deposited in landfills or dumps. Landfills are filling up, however, and disposal of wastes in them has led to environmental problems. Also, government (which had little authority over disposal of wastes until the 1970s) now has extensive regulatory powers.

A growing alternative to such disposal is recycling. Industry has found that when it undertakes serious recycling programs, the savings can sometimes be considerable. In addition to reducing manufacturing and materials costs, such programs can insulate the companies from liability for environmental violations. Agriculture, which is the cause of much environmental degradation, can use organic recycling, or the reuse of manure and crop residues (sometimes called "green manure").

Water, in one sense, is always recycled, inasmuch as there is a finite amount of it available on earth and it constantly moves through its cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Deliberate programs for recycling water include use of wetlands as areas to filter harmful wastes from the substance, or using partly treated sewage for raising fish. Municipal sewage- and water-treatment plants, of course, are fundamental recycling agents.

The individual consumer plays a large part in recycling. Originally, household containers such as beverage cans and bottles were recycled as a matter of course, with a glass beer container or milk bottle being refilled as many as 30 times; in 1935, brewers began putting their products in nonrefillable, "one-way" cans for the convenience of customers, and soon glass containers were declared disposable as well. With the rise of environmentalismenvironmentalism,
movement to protect the quality and continuity of life through conservation of natural resources, prevention of pollution, and control of land use. The philosophical foundations for environmentalism in the United States were established by Thomas Jefferson,
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 in the early 1970s, recycling regained favor. Several states instituted deposit laws for beverage containers; a 5- or 10-cent deposit was charged the consumer at the time of purchase for each can or bottle, then refunded when the container was returned to a store or recycling center. Newspapers take up much volume in landfills, and some recycling programs seek to collect them (along with other sorted categories of waste, such as organic matter, bones, and plastic).

Use of Recycled Materials

In 1996, 27% of solid waste in the United States was recycled. Products that are recycled in large quantities include paper and paperboard, ferrous metals, aluminum and other nonferrous metals, glass, plastics, and yard wastes. Although many local communities have instituted comprehensive recycling programs, these remain expensive. Because the quality of recycled items is often inferior (often due to the mixture or age of the materials in the items being recycled) and not suitable for their original purpose, the price for many recycled materials remains low and makes recycling economically nonviable in some instances. In an attempt to solve this problem, new uses have been created for recovered waste material. Crushed glass, for instance, can be substituted for gravel or sand in road surfacing and other construction applications; the resulting product is called "glassphalt." Scientists and entrepreneurs are also working on ways to turn the world's growing piles of discarded automobile tires into new products or to use them to generate safe energy.


See R. E. Easterling, Reuse of Disposables (1983); W. U. Chandler, Materials Recycling (1983); C. Polprasert, Organic Waste Recycling (1989).


The collection and reprocessing of materials to produce new products; can also be applied to the refurbishment or reuse of old buildings.


Returning to an original condition, as to 0 or 1 in a counting circuit.
The extraction and recovery of valuable materials from scrap or other discarded materials.
Reuse of fissionable nuclear reactor fuel by chemical processing, reenriching, and refabricating into new fuel elements.
References in periodicals archive ?
The recyclable materials included pieces of assorted scrap plastic, cellophane, wrappers, chunks of hard plastic, textiles, fibers, wood chips, glass cullet, stones, soil, paper, and other shredded waste materials.
Based on this study, garbage will be collected from homes, and the residents themselves will sort the recyclable materials.
The Dubai Municipality recently distributed 150 environment-friendly smart containers to help residents separate waste easily through two categories of general waste and recyclable materials on Second of December street and both sides of Sheikh Zayed Road.
WLGA leader Coun Wilcox told the BBC earlier this week that the UK needs to get better at reprocessing recyclable materials and that there needs to be less packaging in the first place.
Recyclable materials in the Kingdom amount to 50 million tons.
Under the new PIF plan, 85 per cent of the recyclable materials, which amounts to 50 million tons per year, will be used as alternative energy and as raw materials for manufacturing purposes.
"In order to determine the potential income from the recovery of recyclable materials, the group made an approximate calculation of financial returns.
Plates and silverware were made from recyclable materials as well.
Coun Brian Stephens, Durham County Council's cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: "It is essential that all items, from a used tin of beans or glass bottle to nappies and pet waste, are put in the right bin or box so recyclable materials are free from contamination and can be turned into other products.
In 2008, North Tyneside and Newcastle City Councils took on a joint contract that led to their kerbside recyclable materials being sorted at G O'Brien and Sons in Willington Quay, North Shields.
Members of staff at Boracay Club at Asiana Hotel, Deira have been making Christman decorations out of recyclable materials - Photos by Herbert Iponla
Chief Executive of Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority Carl Beer said: "After bin lorries have done a collection they come to our Recovery Facility where conveyors, magnets and sorting separates the recyclable materials. If there's too much contamination then it disrupts the process and can bring it to a halt completely."