Materials That Are Non-Recyclable


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In recent years, the amount of waste discarded out to landfills has been alarming. And although some of that is inevitable, if you look closely – there are still a tonne of materials that can be specifically treated to create a more sustainable future for human beings. More than just environmental protection, the efforts that we put in will also pay dividends socially and economically.

In this article, we give you a rundown on different types of materials (recyclable materials and materials that are non-recyclable) and how they can be processed after use – along with a few ideas to spark creativity during this frustrating time at home due to Covid-19.

Recyclable and Non-recyclable Materials Around Us

Here is a list of items that can and cannot be recycled. Keep in mind that these are just some examples, and if you have items that are not on the list – do your research to gather more information or get in touch with the recycling services in your region. These recycling experts will give you the appropriate answers to your questions.

Items That Can Be Recycled

  • Paper and cardboard boxes
  • Office paper, textiles, newspapers, magazines
  • Aluminum and steel cans/lids
  • Disposable coffee cups and lids
  • Glass jars and bottles
  • Cleaning material containers
  • Mattresses (they need their own recycling program or service)
  • Food scraps, garden waste (for composting or reuse)
  • Batteries, electronics (to be put in the e-waste recycling bin)

You can search for more information about recycling services using online maps. After arriving at the recycling center in your region, they will be categorized, cleaned and reprocessed into manufacturing-ready materials. Often, you will get money in return from these buy-back programs and services.

Items That Can't Be Recycled

  • Food wrapping, soiled paper or food boxes
  • Plastic bags, plastic film, plastic straws
  • Ceramics and kitchenware
  • Cleaning rags and clothing
  • Coated materials
  • Styrofoam, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, foam cartons
  • Window glass, mirrors, light bulbs
  • Shattered and broken objects
  • Hazardous chemicals

These items require alternative waste disposal methods to minimize the impact on the environment, giving back tangible benefits to the community and creating a sustainable future.

The Reason Why We Can't Recycle All Plastics

Based on RIC codes (1-7), there are 7 different types of plastic. Lower code numbers (1, 2 and 3) usually mean better recycling ability; while the remaining needs to be sorted out and put aside – as they are not as economically viable to recycle. For instance; plastic film, plastic wrapping and thin plastic bags are notoriously hard for recycling machines to process – which is why people should avoid putting them in the same bin as others. To get a good idea about plastic’s recycling ability, pay attention to the label on some products and look for general categories such as bottles and trays.


For Recyclable Plastic

Since there are many types of recyclable plastic, you can mix them together and send them off at once for recycling – as long as your recycling service allows it, and the recycler can sort out different types of plastic. Most importantly, always make sure that you put the right type of plastic in the recycling bin – don’t be lazy and assume that your recycling provider will do the job for you. A mistake in separating different types of plastic can cause the whole load to be dumped in the landfill.

For Non-recyclable Plastic

There are still some ways to reprocess non-recyclable plastics – like reusing shopping bags or breaking them down to make peanut packaging.

Treating Waste That Can't Be Recycled

While we have recycling services to send our recyclables to – there is still non-recyclable waste that needs to be taken care of. Of course, the optimal way to treat them is to make the most of the leftovers by turning it into energy for future use – instead of just throwing them in the landfill.

Here are some common ways to recover value from our residual waste:

Energy From Waste

This method starts with double-checking the waste recyclables. Once they are properly sorted out, the remaining waste is put through temperatures of (over 850 degrees Celsius). The incinerating process will create steam that powers turbines and supplies power for nearby communities.

Advanced Thermal Treatment

There are many types of advanced thermal treatment, but they all work under the same principle: using heat to melt pre-sorted waste and turn them into useful materials. You need to eliminate metals and glass out of the waste beforehand, and pay attention to the process to ensure adherence to environmental standards.

After reaching melting point, the non-recyclable materials will be broken down into chemical products – the gas will be used to generate electricity. The leftover ashes can also be used as building materials if needed.

Mechanical Biological Treatment

Mechanical biological treatment is simply a way to reduce waste in volume, and is not supposed to replace recycling and composting schemes. With this method, you need a variety of equipment to filter out any recycling or compostable material from your bin or trash bag. After getting all the recyclable materials (like cans, plastics, paper) for later recycling needs, the rest will be sent away and turned into fuel for burning.

Mechanical Heat Treatment

This technique consists of mechanically and heating and separating the waste – which can create cleaner and higher-quality materials like glass or metals than the other methods. Up next is the filtering process, which is very similar to the one described in mechanical biological treatment. Food waste can be turned into land reclamation materials, while others are used as fuels.

Ways To Reuse Common Household Items

Reusing is a good way to avoid wasting money and give new life to the normal things that might initially seem no longer useful. If you have the commitment to cut down on your daily waste, you can easily reuse everyday items that would otherwise be recycled or discarded. Here are our top recommendations:

  • Use plastic bottles or containers for planting and watering
  • Part ways with books that you no longer read by donating them to charities, libraries and used bookstores
  • Utilize paper bags to store waste in your home
  • Donate lightly used clothing or shoes for people in need
  • Return old electronics to the store for parts and money
  • Create handicraft projects for your kids with colorful bottle caps, paper,…

These ideas are excellent ways to stay proactive and reduce your waste. Once you feel like they have absolutely no use left, send them out for recycling or other waste disposal treatments.

Human being’s environmental awareness is currently at an all-time high, and it all starts with a good understanding of the materials around you. Whether they are recyclables or non-recyclables, there are specific procedures that designed to treat them and bring back something positive for the community. In the hard times of Covid-19, where everybody has to stay isolated and opportunities to go outside are scarce – you can still take the 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) approach to handle your waste at home. Less pressure being put on the environment means less chances for another global pandemic to happen, and better overall public health. Is there anything better than this for societies hopes? I don’t think so.