California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Business Waste Reduction

Buy Recycled Products!

The collection of recyclable materials is only the first step of the process we call recycling. Interesting new products are being manufactured from your recyclables and turning up in the marketplace. When you buy goods with recycled content, your purchases help to create a demand for materials collected in recycling programs. Remember to ask about a product's "postconsumer content." This means the product was made from materials that were used and recycled by consumers, rather than from manufacturing wastes.

Here is a look at some of the materials you recycle and the new products that are being made from them:


Recycled Paper
Paper and paperboard products represent approximately 40 percent of the United States municipal solid waste. "Recycled" once meant brown paper full of specks and blotches. Now recycled papers are available in many attractive styles, grades, and colors. Whatever your need, there is probably a recycled paper to suit your purposes.

Recycled Glass
Glass accounts for about 4 percent, by weight, of California's waste stream. Most is container glass. The remainder is plate glass, fiberglass, light bulbs, and other types.

Recycled glass is currently being used to manufacture all kinds of containers, pressed and blown glass products, beautiful floor and wall tiles, glass blocks, sandblasting material, and reflective paint for road signs. It is also used as a drainage medium, in filtration systems, and in road building materials.

Recycled Plastics
Plastic waste comprises 5 percent of California's waste stream. Recycled plastics are being manufactured into many new products. While all materials are theoretically recyclable, the different plastic types may or may not be recyclable in your community, depending on recycling services available in your area. The most commonly recycled plastics are:

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most actively recycled resin in the postconsumer plastics waste stream. Most PET recycled comes from beverage containers. Recycled PET is made into polyester fibers used as stuffing for jackets, pillows, and sleeping bags. Five 2-liter PET bottles can fill a man's ski jacket; 36 can stuff a sleeping bag.
  • High density polyethylene (HDPE). Much of the recycled HDPE comes from milk and water bottles and is used to make containers for detergents, motor oil, and some food products.
  • Polystyrene (PS) is used in a wide variety of consumer products, such as office equipment, video cassette casings, hangers, flower pots, packaging "peanuts," toys, and insulation.
  • Low density polyethylene (LDPE). Film plastics are the most common type of plastic packaging and represent an enormous source of potentially recyclable postconsumer plastic. Consumer and manufacturer interest in plastic film products with recycled content, such as trash, grocery, merchandise, and garment bags, is expected to increase because of the lower color-consistency requirements of this product.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is primarily used in construction and other applications where collectors have difficulty identifying and separating plastic resins. Markets involving recycled PVC include siding and drain pipe, which can use large quantities of lower-quality resin.
  • Polypropylene (PP) is commonly used to manufacture products with extended lifetimes such as furniture and auto battery cases. Automobile makers are experimenting with recycling PP scrap from old cars into new car bumpers.
  • Other includes all other resins and layered multimaterial plastics.
  • Commingled or mixed plastics are low value mixtures of postconsumer plastics. These are fueling public interest in products such as plastic lumber, to replace the use of pressure-treated wood. With extended lifetimes and low maintenance requirements, plastic lumber is suitable for use as landscape timbers, picnic tables, pallets, and marine piers.

The growing demand for landfill alternatives in this country is leading more communities to implement yard waste composting projects. Composting provides an environmentally sound method of waste disposal because it relies on natural biological processes under controlled conditions. Composting can reduce the volume of materials by 30-60 percent. Landscape trimmings are made into a variety of soil amendments and mulches which help to keep weeds out and moisture in.

More than two-thirds of the amount of steel produced each year is recycled, making steel the most actively recycled material. Beyond the large volume of steel recycled each year, all steel products are guaranteed to have recycled content because new steel is made from old steel.

Steel is also a green framing material in sustainable home development, as is steel roofing.

Of the estimated 28.2 million tires discarded in California annually, approximately 60 percent are landfilled, stockpiled, or illegally dumped! 16 percent are reused, exported, or retreaded. Besides being retreaded for reuse, tires are processed into raw materials (crumb rubber) for use in rubberized and rubber modified asphalt paving materials. Tires are also used in building construction, erosion control, artificial marine habitats, crash barriers, and playground equipment.

Used Oil and Antifreeze
Used motor oil is re-refined into new motor oil, as well as transmission fluid and lubricating oils of very high quality. It takes three gallons of used motor oil to produce one gallon of re-refined motor oil, compared to using 75 gallons of crude oil just to make one gallon of virgin motor oil. Used antifreeze is also re-refined for reuse.

Construction and Demolition Debris
Wood waste is processed into a variety of products such as compost, mulch, sawdust, woodchips, pressed wood logs, and fiberboard. Drywall is crushed and used as a soil amendment, or in the manufacture, along with old newspaper, of floor underlayment. Look also for fiberglass insulation and paint with recycled content.

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Publication #500-94-031

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Last updated: April 5, 2014
Business Resource Efficiency & Waste Reduction,
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