The process of turning used materials (waste) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials. Furthermore, recycling reduces the consumption of fresh, raw materials, energy usage, air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from land-filling) by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal, and lowers greenhouse gas emissions compared to virgin production. Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” waste hierarchy.Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics. Although similar in effect, the composting, or other reuse of biodegradable waste – such as food or garden waste – is not typically considered recycling.

In the strictest sense, recycling of a material would produce a fresh supply of the same material—for example; used office paper would be converted into new office paper, or used foamed polystyrene into new polystyrene. However, this is often difficult or too expensive (compared with producing the same product from raw materials or other sources), so “recycling” of many products or materials involve their reuse in producing different materials (e.g., paperboard) instead. Another form of recycling is the salvage of certain materials from complex products, either due to their intrinsic value (e.g., lead from car batteries, or gold from computer components), or due to their hazardous nature (e.g., removal and reuse of mercury from various items).

Did you know?

In 2008, Canadians produced over 1,031 kilograms of waste per person, virtually the same per capita production as in 2006. Of this total, 777 kg went to landfills or was incinerated while 254 kg was diverted from landfill. Overall,this translated into 34 million tonnes of waste handled by the waste management industry; 26 million tonnes of that waste was disposed of in landfills or was incinerated and over 8 million tonnes was diverted or processed through material recovery facilities or centralized composting operations.

Approximately 21 million tonnes of waste generated came from non-residential sources while the other 13 million tonnes was from residential sources.

Please read Waste Management Industry Survey: Business and Government Sectors 2008 for more information.

Recyclable Materials