Learn how the recycling industry has evolved and matured into an important part of our economy.
For many years recycling was recognized for its role in the environmental movement, but not for its contributions to the economy. Today, recycling is a mature industry and a critical part of the economy, creating four times as many jobs as disposal and an estimated $90 billion dollar contribution to the United States economy annually. Like any industry, it continues to evolve as new technologies are developed that get the job done more efficiently and expand services to create more and greener waste management solutions.
The surge in “green” interest in recent years has brought a period of rapid change. You are probably aware of changes that make recycling easier and more convenient at home, work and even in public spaces, but you may not be aware of the high-tech changes that make all that convenience possible.
At home and office you can put mixed recyclable materials into one collection container because of technologically advanced sorting equipment used at material recovery facilities. Material travels along conveyor belts and through a series of machines that separate materials based on their physical and chemical properties. Screens separate by size, magnets separate metal and optical sorters use laser light to read the molecular structure of materials and separate them by type. End-users have also added equipment to enable use of recyclable material as manufacturing feedstock. For example, some paper mills have added technology that separates the plastic and aluminum layers of gable top and shelf-stable cartons to use the high-quality paper fibers inside.