The Other Side of Recycling

When most people think of recycling, they think of consumer waste recycling, recycling the things we use in our homes.  And yet industries produce a huge amount of nonhazardous materials as byproducts of the industrial processes.  These can often be reused and recycled, saving money and resources.  Energy use can be reduced, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Many manufacturers are getting involved in recycling and reusing.  Some examples of recycled industrial materials are:

   Coal Ash  -Used in the production of cement and ceiling tiles

   Concrete and Asphalt – Can be used as an aggregate in pavements when crushed

   Carpet Backing – Used in the manufacture of hard surface tiles

   Slag, spent foundry sand and coal fly ash – Used in road embankments and concrete

–   Wood – Pulp for paper production

   Glass – As an additive in clay

Photo courtesy of Ernst Vikne

Some industries that are embracing the use of recycled products are:

      Clothing – Some clothing manufacturers have started making fabric using recycled plastic, or PET. When PET flakes are spun into thread or yarn, they create a very strong, rough and rugged fabric suitable for use in jackets, shoes, bags and other items that would not be in direct contact with skin.  Recently, some clothing manufacturers have gone even further and found ways to make softer fabrics using recycled PET, sometimes by using different processing techniques and sometimes by blending the recycled PET fabric with other materials.  Nike’s 2010 World Cup jerseys worn by players and available at retail are made using fabric created from recycled PET.  Each football shirt used 8 plastic bottles, diverting a total of 13 million plastic bottles from landfills.  And Anvil’s Eco-Collection uses 50% post consumer PET to manufacture t-shirts.

–     Carpet – The carpet industry has really jumped into the recycled material pool.  When carpet is manufactured using recycled carpet and plastic it often has increased stain-resistance and less VOCs.  The manufacturing process itself produces fewer emissions when manufacturing with recycled content.  Interface is a carpet tile manufacturer that has developed the technology to manufacture carpet with 64-75% total recycled content. In addition, aluminosilicate glass (ASG) is a byproduct of coal powered electricity production; normally ASG ends up in landfills but Interface uses it in the manufacture of the carpet backing.  Interface has also implemented new technologies to make the separation of carpet fiber from backing more efficient, resulting in lower embodied energy than most carpet recycling systems.

–     Resilient Flooring – Resilient floor tiles can also be made using carpet and vinyl scrap.  SelecTech makes its FreeStyle and Place N’ Go flooring with up to 78% recycled materials.  The recycled materials make up the base of the tile while a decorative top sheet makes a durable surface.  The result is a waterproof, flexible tile that’s visually appealing as well as easy to install.

FreeStyle Tile Composition

     Motor Vehicles – Some car manufacturers are recycling and reusing parts from end-of-life vehicles.  Nissan recycles many materials and parts from end-of-life vehicles and the reusable parts are sold under the “Nissan Green Parts” name.  At dealerships, when repairs are conducted, customers can choose between Genuine Nissan parts or Green Nissan parts.  Nissan also uses a lot of recycled plastics and other materials to manufacture their zero emission vehicle, the Nissan LEAF.  Click on this link to see what kind of materials are used and where on the LEAF they are applied.  Learn about their recycling philosophy and what other materials Nissan is recycling here.

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