By Dave Russell

 

Part of living a greener lifestyle is searching out products that can be used again and again and again. Some recyclable materials can only be recycled a limited number of times, but others can be recycled many times over.

“Most plastics can only be recycled once or twice,” Jackson County Recycle/Reduction Coordinator Kim Shuler said. “After that they are downcycled into clothing, fleece or lumber.”

It is much more efficient to reuse these materials than to use all new materials to create them. After being downcycled, the materials may eventually go to the landfill, she said.

Aluminum is a valuable recyclable material because it can be recycled an unlimited number of times.

“It doesn’t degrade,” Shuler said. “In fact, most of the aluminum ever produced is still in use today, being recycled over and over.”

Paper is made of long fibers. When paper is recycled those fibers become shorter and shorter and can only be recycled five to seven times, Shuler said. 

After that, only very short fibers are left and are usually hard to recycle again. Instead, these fibers are made into paper paste to make newspapers, egg cartons or packing material.

Glass is like aluminum, in that it can be recycled over and over again without degrading.

“It is one third more efficient to recycle glass to make new products than it is to mine for new material to process into the new items,” Shuler said. “There are different types of glass which require different recycling processes so make sure to contact your local recycling center to find out which ones they can process.”

The demand for new materials to be mined from the earth could be greatly reduced if everyone would recycle their old metal. By recycling one ton of steel, the mining of more than 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone could be prevented, Shuler said.

“Help your community by purchasing products made from recycled materials, and keep in mind what can be done and what it can be used for later, and don’t forget to donate things you no longer can find a use for,” she said.