Go Recycle | Your Washington Area Resource for Recycling Information

What is Made from Materials?

Items collected for recycling are processed at a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and then sent to end markets where companies manufacture new products. Remember to complete the loop by looking for recycled-content products whenever your company is buying items. Here are some examples of what becomes of common items:

The MRF ships bales of material to paper mills. There the paper is shredded and mixed with pulp and then it receives further cleaning before finally being processed into flat paper and wound into large rolls. Paper is typically recycled back into newsprint, boxboard (cereal box material), corrugated cardboard, and office paper. To learn more, visit paperrecycles.org.

At the MRF, magnets separate steel cans from other recyclables before they are crushed into large bales. The MRF ships the bales to steel mills or foundries for recycling where the steel cans are combined with other scrap and melted in a furnace. The mill makes steel for many new steel products such as automobiles, appliances, consturction materials, or another steel can. Learn more.

Glass bottles and jars are made into a variety of products. Color separated glass can be used in new bottle production. Other uses include tile, filtration material, sand blasting, concrete pavements and parking lots, decorative items, and fiber glass. Learn more.

Aluminum cans are recycled into new cans and other aluminum products. Aluminum cans are unique in that in 60 days a can is recycled, turned into a new can and back on store shelves. Aluminum is a sustainable metal and can be recycled over and over again. It is the most valuable material per pound of the common recyclables discussed here. Learn more.

Plastic Bottles
Plastic bottles go to processing facilities that are capable of sorting the items by grades such as PET and HDPE. Advanced optical sorting machines often conduct the sort. Once the material is separated in bales, it is sent to factories that make new bottles, carpet, clothing, agricultural pipe, and durable plastic lumber for decking and outdoor products. To learn more visit the American Chemistry Council Recycle Your Plastics site.