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31 July 2020

The second life of recyclables

The recycling industry includes several stakeholders, including municipalities, businesses and citizens. The responsibility of each stakeholder is paramount for selective collection to be effective since once the materials are transported to one of the 26 sorting centres in Quebec, a new life begins for the contents of your blue bin!

What happens to your milk container,  your  large tub of  yogurt  and your metal cans that are part of  the 786,000 tons of recyclables sent to Quebec recovery centres/recyclers? Each material has its own properties that can be used to make new consumer goods.  

What is the difference between a recovery centre and a recycler? The role of the recovery centre is to transform materials to make them compatible so they can be used to make a new product. They use processes such as sorting, washing, shredding (or grinding) or extrusion.  For example, this process allows us to turn plastic into fragments or flakes and glass into powder. Recyclers, on the other hand, use these materials to incorporate them into manufacturing new products.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of what will become of the recovered materials.

Steel can be used to make:

  • Cans
  • Tools and nails
  • Frames
  • Steel structures (bridges, buildings, cars)

Aluminum can be used to make:  

  • Cans
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Building materials
  • Car parts

Cardboard can be used to make:

  • Kraft paper
  • Cardboard boxes (from corrugated cardboard
  • Some building materials, including roofing and cellulose insulation

Fine paper can be used to make:

  • Flat or corrugated cardboard
  • Household and sanitary paper (tissue paper, paper towels, toilet paper, postal envelopes)

Newsprint paper can be used to make:  

  • Egg cartons
  • Pet litter
  • Flat cardboard for shoe and cereal boxes, back of scratchpads, etc.;
  • Stuffing for building material protective coverings (insulation, soundproofing, wall siding and roofing).

Plastic can be used to make:    

  • Shopping and waste bags
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Toys
  • Fleece clothes
  • Rain boots
  • Fences and railings
  • Drainage and irrigation pipes, etc.
  • Skate guards
  • Clothes hangers
  • Car parts (bumpers, batteries)
  • Bases of road signs and road cones
  • Building materials (boards, beams, insulation panels, etc.)
  • Shower curtains
  • Cages for animals
  • Rolling bins, recycling bins and home composters

Worn-out tires can be used to make:

  • Speed bumps
  • Protective mats as well as sports and play surfaces
  • Wheels for rolling bins
  • Mudguards
  • Soles
  • Flower boxes
  • Blasting mats

Caution: tires must be recycled at your local ecocentre and do not go into the blue bin.

Glass can be used to make:

  • Glass containers
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Insulation
  • Abrasives
  • Kitchen counters
  • Ornamental and horticultural mulch

Recycling these materials is an excellent way to help the environment and contribute to the preservation of natural resources. Sorting materials properly at the source, on a daily basis, is therefore essential. Are you wondering if you can put something in your blue bin? Check out Recyc-Québec’s Ça va où  search tool or contact us!

For the full list of products from selective collection, check out Recyc-Québec’s article.

Sources: Recyc-Québec, Bilan 2018 de la gestion des matières résiduelles au Québec (in French only)

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