closed loop recycling

What is closed loop recycling?

Closed loop recycling may be a term you have heard before, or perhaps not, but we thought it might be helpful to delve into the topic on our blog and discuss what closed loop recycling is and why it is important.

In a nutshell, closed loop recycling is the process by which a product is used, recycled, and then made into a new product — therefore not ever entering landfill.

This means that these waste types are better for the environment than those that are recycled but have to be mixed with virgin materials to make new products (this is open loop recycling), and, of course, those that can’t be recycled at all.

What type of waste is involved in closed loop recycling?

Closed loop recycling is suitable for materials that don’t lose any of their quality during the recycling process. These are:

  • Aluminium (cans, etc.)
  • Glass
  • Some plastic types

What is the closed loop recycling process?

The process varies between waste types, however the overall process is as follows:

  • Collect the waste from homes, businesses & recycling banks
  • Clean the waste
  • Cut/crush the waste
  • Use the resource to create new products

Below we’ll take you through the aluminium drinks can recycling process, as an example.

Aluminium recycling

aluminium recycling concept

  • Drinks cans are collected from homes, recycling centres, businesses, etc.
  • The recyclable materials are taken to a local materials recovery facility where they are sorted. Large magnets are used to separate metals, and the aluminium is compressed into bales.
  • The bales of aluminium are then taken to a reprocessing plant. Here, the resource is shredded, de-coated, melted, and cast into ingots.
  • From here, the ingots are taken to a rolling mill, where they are rolled out into sheets of aluminium.
  • The sheets of aluminium are then used to create new drinks cans, and other aluminium products.

Aluminium has been recycled for around 100 years now, and 75 per cent of the aluminium ever used is still in use today! That can of coke you’re drinking right now has had many past lives thanks to closed loop recycling.

We’ll now take you through the glass closed-loop recycling process.

Glass recycling

glass bottle recycling concept

  • Glass is collected from homes, recycling centres, businesses, etc.
  • The material is taken to a reprocessing facility where it is colour-sorted, crushed and has any contaminants removed.
  • The material is then mixed with other raw materials as required. For example, to add colour.
  • The resource is then melted in a furnace.
  • Finally, the glass is remoulded into new jars and bottles.

Over a tonne of natural resources are saved for every tonne of glass recycled.

Why is closed loop recycling important?

This type of recycling is very important as it offers the following benefits:

  • Reduces the use of virgin materials, preserving natural resources.
  • Saves space in landfill for non-recyclables.
  • Reduces pollution — creating materials from virgin resources is far more labour intensive and therefore produces far more emissions.
  • Lessens the risk of harm to the environment.
  • Lessens the risk of harm to wildlife.

Want to know how to increase your recycling rate at home? Check out this Forge Recycling blog post.

Published by

Lucy Ravenhall

Lucy is a long-standing editor of the Forge Recycling blog and loves writing about her environmental passions.