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Background

Integrated waste management embraces a hierarchy of


waste management options to achieve maximum economic
and environmental returns.
Recycling was listed near the top of the hierarchy and will
be addressed in this chapter.
A new environmental awareness arose by the late 1980s,
catalyzed by news of washups of medical wastes, decline of
landfill space, a possible global greenhouse effect, and
atmospheric ozone depletion.

At this time it became apparent that sanitary landfills were
rapidly closing.

The cost of disposing wastes correspondingly increased.

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As a result, interest in recycling by the public and,
significantly, also by industries and government increased
markedly.
In recent years, numerous community recycling efforts
have originated from efforts to reduce the waste load to the
local landfill, thus saving tax dollars.
There are many examples of municipalities establishing
recycling drop-off centers or materials recovery facilities
(MRFs) as a result of public pressure.
On a larger scale, however, a wide range of legislation at
both national and state levels has been promulgated that
encourages the recycling of MSW.
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Recycling

There are two primary approaches to the segregation of
MSW for eventual recycling: Source separation and the
MRF.

Source separation includes the segregation of specific
waste components by the individual homeowner and
commercial establishment. (i.e., at the source).

The individual products (e.g., aluminum cans, paper, glass,
and plastics) are collected and transported to a facility for
further processing such as densifying and shredding.

These slightly processed, clean materials are then sold to
and removed by brokers or manufacturers.
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In contrast, the MRF is a centralized and mechanized facility
which accepts either raw ("commingled") MSW or source-
separated materials.

The mixed items are placed on conveyor belts where
specific recyclables are removed at various stations, either
by hand or by a specialized mechanical device.

Both source separation and MRF methods differ drastically
in terms of efficiency of separation, capital costs, labor costs,
energy use, and other factors.
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Recycling Terminology

Several terms related to recycling are often misused; in order to
avoid confusion, it is important at the outset to clarify some of the
relevant language.

Source separation
Source separation means removal of potentially recyclable
materials from the waste stream.
Source separation will be conducted by the individual consumer
and commercial establishment (Figure 6.1).
Figure 6.1: Drop-off centers are one means of segregation of MSW component
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Reuse

Reuse is using an item for its original purpose.

A common example is refilling a returnable soft drink bottle.

Recycling

Recycle is the use of a material in a form similar to its original use.

Newspapers are recycled into cardboard or new newspaper.

Plastic is shredded and manufactured into fabric.

Aluminum window frames are converted into new beverage
containers.

Waste-to-energy

Waste to energy is the conversion of MSW (preferably the organic
fraction only) into energy by combustion in a controlled incinerator.

Energy is recovered as heat and can be utilized directly; however,
some facilities convert the heat energy into electrical energy.
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Resource recovery
Resource recovery is the extraction of energy or materials from
wastes.
This term incorporates all of the above.
Thus, a waste-to-energy facility will incinerate organic wastes to
generate heat energy.
Glass and rubber are separated from wastes, processed, and
used as road building materials.
With the above terminology in mind, we can address the overall
mechanism of recycling as shown by the universal recycling
symbol (Figure 6.2).
Figure 6.2: The Universal Recycling Symbol
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Advantages of Recycling

Advantages of recycling are as follows:

Reduce the volume of waste to landfill

Save the energy, and provide business

Encourage people to do something positive

Saving resources and saving bottomlines.