The Recycling Process for Common Materials

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As a home or business owner, recycling is a very simple process. You simply get rid of all your recyclable materials in their appropriate bins, those bins get emptied, and recycling is over. However, each material goes through a different recycling process, and there may be some things you don’t even realize CAN be recycled. Let’s dive into what makes the recycling process different for various materials.

Cardboard and Paper

Recycling paper and cardboard is an incredibly important part of everyday life. Everyone knows that it saves millions of trees each year, but it also saves 40% of energy used in the manufacturing process.

The first step in the recycling of paper and paper products is sorting. Miscellaneous trash will be removed from the recycled paper products, and then the paper will be sorted by grade. Paper fibers shorten each time a product is recycled, so the length of those fibers will be measured to determine its grade. Based on that evaluation, the paper products will be separated out into bales that are stored until they are needed for the next step in the process.

When the mill is ready for a new load of paper, the bales will be sent out. After arrival to the mill, the paper products will be shredded down into small pieces. Water and chemicals will be added and mixed with the paper shreds, and then this mixture will be heated. This step causes the paper to break down into individual fibers. Following this, the mixture will be passed through a screen to remove adhesives and other contaminates.

Once the paper fibers have been purified, they are ready to be used in the manufacturing of new paper products. This process begins with the cleaning of the paper shreds, via spinning in a cylindrical container. This step also removes any ink residues. The mixture can be called pulp, and it is sprayed onto a conveyor belt. Water will be slowly dripped down to encourage the paper fibres to start bonding. Metal rollers supply heat to dry the bonded paper, and then it is ready to be formatted into the new paper products. Since paper can be recycled 5 to 7 times before the fibers become too short to be usable, there are a lot of possibilities for repurposing.

Cardboard Recycling Bale

Metals and Salvage

The recycling process for metals and various salvage components can be broken down into seven main steps. Since many metals are quite expensive and difficult to source, recycling can be a great way to cut down on costs and protect the environment at the same time. The recycling process can be broken down into five main steps.

Once recycled metal materials have been collected, they need to be sorted. Clean material will be separated from dirty material, and each metal type will be sorted out. Magnets and observation are both essential for separating metals out properly and efficiently. After sorting, metal products need to be processed. This begins with shredding of the metal products, which helps make the next step much easier. For example, aluminum will be shredded into sheets, and steel into blocks.

After the metal products have been shredded into workable size pieces, they will be melted down. Each metal type is melted in its own furnace and at different temperatures, due to the differences in chemical characteristics. While this step requires a lot of energy, it is still more efficient than producing new metal products. Melting can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, and the duration is dependent on the temperature of the furnace, the amount of metal being melted at once, and the size of the furnace.

Purification comes next, and this is done to remove contaminants from the metal and ensure quality in the products they will become in the future. Most commonly, a process called electrolysis is used to separate the metal from any contaminants. Solidification comes next, and this involves allowing the metals to cool, and forming them into easily transportable shapes such as bars. All that’s left is to send them off to manufacturing facilities to begin a new life.


Since asphalt is needed so frequently for paving needs, it is essential that it is recycled whenever it is removed from roadways. This dramatically reduces the amount of new material needed to keep roadways safe and functional.

Asphalt recycling will begin with intensive crushing. Once the recycled material is pulverized to an optimum level, it will be filtered. Each component will be separated out; the aggregates and the binders will each be stored in separate areas until it is time for remixing. Aggregates include materials like gravel and sand, and sometimes will also include other recycled materials such as tire rubber and metal manufacturing by-products. Each binder and aggregate element will be recycled separately.

Once all asphalt elements have been separated, they will be recombined, possibly with the addition of new materials. This recycled asphalt can often be better quality than the original product, because recycling plants can be more precise with material additions and can use a wider range of materials to give the asphalt various characteristics. Combining different asphalt sources can result in some pretty unique and beneficial properties, and this ability is unique to recycling centers.


The wood recycling process is quite a simple one. Timber and wood scraps will be sent to a recycling plant, where they will be sorted. Each category of wood recyclables will be shredded into different sized pieces. The final size is dependent on the future use of the wood. After shredding, the wood chunks will be screened for imperfections and contaminants. If all looks good, the large chunks will be used to make furnishings, and smaller pieces will be further processed to compose animal bedding and other similar products. Common products composed of recycled wood include shavings for animal bedding, mulch and compost material, biomass, and even furniture.

No matter what your recycling needs are, Quest Disposal & Recycling can help.