Blog: Recycle to Reuse

Extract them all - shred out the recyclables from landfills

Have you ever thought how much a landfill is worth? Every day, tons of waste are dumped in landfills in bags containing such materials as plastic, aluminum, cardboard, gold – you name it, it’s in there. These are valuable materials that there are currently markets for in the world. Waste can be processed differently by shredding the material and extracting the valuable materials for reuse.

From landfills to segregation

For companies in the recycling business, the ongoing transformation in cultural and political mindsets in terms of the circular economy means big opportunities business-wise. In Europe and growingly also in the USA, for example, governments are looking to minimize the number of landfills. Currently, in the USA, landfill taxes are low enough to keep landfills as an attractive option for waste handling. However, simply raising the taxes might elevate the risk of illegal dumping.

It is a significant investment to go from simple landfill-type of business into the waste processing business. It is best to reuse as much as we can, not only from an environmental sustainability point of view, but from a potential revenue perspective as well. The more efficient the recycling is, the higher the value of reusable waste material.

The opportunities are very market-related, as for example in the USA and Middle East, oil is cheaper than making alternative fuel from waste. As the recycling business is driven by money, not goodwill, it’s obvious that there needs to be incentives to start the business. Thus, it’s not only regulations that impact the business of recycling, but also how efficient the full process can be made so that it generates profit.

Shredding is the key for extracting valuable materials

In order to sort the material, as a recycling business owner you need a shredder to open the bags that most of us use to carry out the trash. Source segregation is high in Scandinavia, for example, but most of the waste generated is not source segregated, meaning that there is a mix of waste in the bags.

Shredding makes it possible to mechanically separate the various materials, allowing more homogeneous material to be fed into the sorting plant. This ensures that the sorting is more efficient, the equipment works better, and more material is recycled.

Shredded material can be processed forward to either open loop or closed loop product, and ultimately, less valuable material goes to landfill as waste.

Reusing waste – what is closed and open loop recycling?

Waste material can be roughly divided into two kinds of material: 1) the kind that can be reused for similar purposes as earlier, so it can substitute virgin material, or 2) the kind that is not suitable for use as a substitute its previous product applications but can be reused for other purposes before it is discarded as no use waste. The process of the former is called closed loop recycling and the latter open loop recycling.

Aluminium is a great example of material that can be reused for creating the same products (for example cans) again and again, because the features of the "waste" material don’t differ considerably from virgin material. EVERBOARD™, a product from Continuus Materials interviewed in the video above, is also one example. Post-consumer material is processed and reproduced as a roof cover board, so the material is turned into something completely different.

One isn't necessarily better than the other, and there are ways to increase the recycling rates for both. For either one to happen, the waste needs to be properly accessed, and that can be done with shredding. 

 

Original video produced by FOX. 


Building material out of waste
Continuus Materials uses pre-shredding to increase the efficiency of their waste sorting process.

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Dorthe Larsen

Application Manager, Waste Recycling

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