What Are The 3 Types Of Recycling?

Did you know that automobiles happen to be the most recycled consumer product? 80% of all cars that are discarded become recycled. Understanding the various types of recycling will help you know what can and cannot be recycled. 

The recycling industry is more important now than it ever has been. Each year there is a raising need for consumers to responsibly recycle items that they discard. In this guide, we will talk about the 3 types of recycling and why they are important.

What are the 3 types of Recycling?

You should first understand that recycling is the recovery or reuse of materials or products that may otherwise be discarded or thrown away. Any time that you can reuse materials or products rather than throwing them away is considered recycling. For example, you may recycle your glass jar that pickles come in to store other food rather than throw it away. Any time you drop off your recyclable goods they will be recovered and reprocessed to make new products. This keeps them out of landfills. 

All recyclables will fall into 3 main types of recycling: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Below we will discuss each and what they should mean to you! 

Primary Recycling

Primary recycling is where a recyclable material or product can be recovered or reused without altering its current state. A lot of primary recyclables will be repurposed for the same use as it was created for. 

Primary recyclables should not be changed in any way. You may think of these types of recyclables as secondhand use. They may be utilized by you, donated or sold. Here are some examples of primary recycling.

  • Glassware – dishes, glass jars, etc.
  • Toys – donate to charities, friends or family
  • Electronics – reuse in another area of your business, sell to recover some cost or donate

Secondary Recycling

Secondary Recycling will be repurposed without having to reprocess them. SO, the material may be reused in a different way than it was initially intended. This often happens with DIY crafts and can make a huge difference in ensuring recyclable material stay out of landfills. Here are some examples of secondary recycling:

  • Cut egg cartons in half and use them to plant seedlings.
  • Cut off the top half of a plastic bottle to use it as a plant pot. 
  • Reuse of plastic, paper, wood, metals to do any type of DIY project.

Tertiary Recycling

Tertiary recycling involves the chemical altering of the products or material to make it reusable. This may be done internally or externally. If external, the recyclables are recovered and reprocessed through a public facility. It would involve sorting recyclables and placing them in bins to be transported by a reprocessing facility. Internal recycling would be where no public service is involved. Some factories or manufactures may conduct internal tertiary recycling. 

Types of Recycling By Material

We have talked about the 3 different types of recycling, but what about the various materials that we can recycle. 

Type of Material

The first type of recycling can be classified by type of material that is being recycled. Glass recycling, paper recycling, metal recycling, plastic and textile recycling and finally electronic recycling. Another type of recycling is composting which is the “reuse of biodegradable waste,” like garden mulch, or food.

Other types of recycling are grouped by the nature of the recycling procedure. By default, recycling a material produces that same material, so the paper you recycle at the office would be converted into fresh office paper. 

Waste Paper and Cardboard

According to ABB.com ¾ of all corrugated cardboard boxes are recycled each year. It is estimated that 90 billion cardboard boxes are discarded each year. Out of those, about 75 billion are recycled. Recycling paper and cardboard is important because it can save our trees. For every ton of paper and cardboard recycled, up to 17 trees can be saved. In addition, this will save 2 cubic yards of landfill capacity and help decrease 4100 kW/hours of electricity. Now it is easy to see why recycling is so important. If that didn’t convince you to recycle your paper goods, maybe this will: It takes 70% less energy to make new paper from recycled material than beginning with fresh pulp. 

Types Of Recycling

Plastic Recycling

There are tons of different types of plastics, so it may be hard for you to know which ones are recyclable. Here is a breakdown of the various types of plastics and if they are recyclable. Keep in mind you will have to check with your city guidelines and ensure they accept these types of plastic for recycling.

  • PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – soda bottles, water bottles, and common food packages. These items are recyclable.
  • HDPE (High-density Polyethylene) – Detergent packages, bleach, milk containers, hair care products, and motor oil. This material is recyclable. 
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – pipes, toys, furniture, packaging. More difficult to recycle.
  • LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene) – wrapping, grocery bags, and sandwich bags. These items are recyclable. 
  • PP (Polypropylene) – Clothing, bottles, tubs, and ropes. It can be recycled into fibers.
  • PS (Polystyrene) – known as Styrofoam and tends to be very bulky making it hard to recycle. 
  • Others – this category would include those plastics that are not readily recyclable such as polyurethane. 

Clothing and Textile

We all have clothing that we need to get rid of but do not throw it in the trash. There are hundreds of organizations that will gladly take your old clothing. They will repurpose it by giving it to those in need. In addition, you can easily make a few bucks by selling your appeal online or to a clothing store that takes second-hand clothing. 


Another recycling type is reuse, that is, using the materials to produce different materials. Salvage of materials that are valuable from products, like ITAD electronics and valuable computer parts.

E-Waste (Electronic Devices)

This type of recycling would be electrical components or equipment. They would include:

  • Computers
  • Mobile Phones
  • Tables
  • TVs
  • Stereos
  • Copiers
  • Printers
  • Fax Machines

Electronics can easily be recycled through professional services, such as those provided by All Green Recycling. In addition, you can resell or repurpose your electronic devices to help keep them out of landfills.

Wood Recycling

Wood is a renewable resource and can be repurposed for many different uses. You may repurpose wood for building materials or recycle them to be used as mulch for landscaping. Some low-grade woods can be used for environmentally friendly fuel. 

Wood recycling may include:

  • Pallets
  • Boxes
  • Floorboards
  • Chipboards
  • Fencing
  • Plywood
  • Furniture

Glass Recycling

Glass is something we want to keep out of landfills because it does not fully decompose. This will lead to landfills becoming too full. Most people do not know that glass is 100% recyclable. This means every part of the glass can be reused. It is a material that will never lose its purity or quality. Therefore, consumers must take the steps to properly recycle their glass. 

Glass recyclables would include:

  • Bottles
  • Jars
  • Windows
  • Drinking glasses
  • Computer screens 

Bricks and Inert Waste Recycling

All type of rubble that is no longer usable can be repurposed for other building projects. There are tons of contractors who will gladly take bricks or pavers off your hands to be used in new building projects. These are cumbersome items that should not make their way into a landfill. 

Why Should You Recycle?

When we recycle, we save our raw materials, reduce the usage of our energy, cut down on air pollution and water pollution and have the opportunity to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Benefits of Recycling

  • Decrease waste that goes into landfills and incinerators
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals
  • Increases economic security 
  • Prevents pollution
  • Saves energy
  • Supports American manufacturing and conserves valuable resources
  • Helps create jobs 

What Kinds of Recycling Systems Are There?

There are types of recycling that are classified by the system, that is, wherein the process of recycling the items are cleaned and sorted. You can recycle with mixed waste collection, source separation, and commingled recyclables. 

Mixed Waste Collection

This is when all of the products to be recycled are mixed in with the rest of the waste, and then after picking up the materials are sorted out and cleaned. Although mixed waste collection amounts to a lot of recyclable waste, the city doing the pickup doesn’t need to pay for separate collection of recyclables and you don’t have to depend on the public to do it.

Source Separation

Source separation is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Each material is sorted and cleaned before collection ever takes place. The advantage of this type of recycling is that there is much less need for cleaning after collection but the public does have to be educated on what materials are OK to recycle. Although source separation used to be the preferential way to recycle because of the price of sorting, technology has lowered this cost dramatically. 

Commingled System

In a commingled system, all recyclables are mixed but garbage is kept separate. This will cut the costs of cleaning after collection but requires help from the public and education services to tell the public what is safe to recycle.

Private Reason to Recycle

Few people realize that, on top of the physical recycling of resources, individuals and businesses need to recycle their retired IT assets to maintain the security of data that may be stored on them. Computers, specialty laptops, and tablets, faxes, printers, scanners, network devices – these forms of e-waste can store potentially harmful information that needs to be removed with a secure data destruction service.

What Kinds of Recycling Centers Are There?

Buy-back center recycling is where all of the clean products are purchased. The main advantage offered here is that because there is a motivation to use these centers, there will be a stable supply of recyclable products flowing in. Afterward, the processed material can then be sold, which will theoretically create a profit.

All Green Electronics Recycling Services Are Offered In:

Drop off centers are the last type of recycling center, where the recyclables are carried to a central location. Although these are the easiest types of recycling centers to establish, they might be less predictable or stable in terms of supply. Recycling is good for the environment and can create countless new jobs. Regardless of which kind of recycling you use, it is surely not a wasted effort.

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