The concept of recycling is one that has gained a lot of ground in the last 15 years. Finding ways to reuse older products in a way that will make them useful again can be as simple as using old boxes as containers, or as complex as breaking down large quantities of materials and adapting them for new products. Over time, methods of recycling has evolved with the discovery of more effective ways to recycle.
In 2006, Earthfirst! created a new way to recycle tires. Through their new method of reusing tires, it produced valuable resources such as steel, carbon, high energy gas and oil. It also raised the standards in emissions by burning tires at just one-third of the temperature needed in older tire recycling plants. Another way to look at it is this: from a typical 20-pound passenger tire, one gallon of oil, 30 cubic feet of combustible gas, eight pounds of carbon and two pounds of steel can be recovered.
With printed circuit boards (or PCBs for short) making up 3 percent of all electronic waste, it was becoming a difficult task to find ways to recycle them due to their composition. However, a breakthrough happened when scientists in China found a way to recycle not just the aluminum and copper in the PCBs, but also found a use to the nonmetallic items as well. By using a two-method crushing process, recycling centers are able to:
- Electromagnetically remove the metallic parts
- Separate out and pulverize the nonmetallic parts
- Mix it with resin and polystrene
- Heat it and press it into products like fences, grates, and park benches
A hot button in environmental awareness, polysterene foam (or Styrofoam) was in dire need of a way to be recycled. As it turns out, this particular scientific breakthrough was found in nature. In 2006 scientists found a bacterium that eats Styrofoam and turn it into PHA, a biodegradable plastic! Of course, the polysterene foam first needs to be turned into styrene oil through heating it without oxygen, but it is through this discovery that scientists everywhere began to look in nature for an answer to effective recycling methods.
The electronic age has raised high demand that tech industries begin looking for more eco-friendly ways to create their products. Motorola recently unveiled what they call “the world’s first carbon-neutral phone” by making a cellular phone out of recycled water bottles! It is also completely, 100% recyclable, and it also requires 20% less energy to produce!
The pink fiberglass insulation found in most homes is also finding new materials. Ecovative Design has created insulation called Greensulate, which is insulation made up of rice hulls, mushroom fibers and recycled paper. Having already been installed in several homes and business in major cities, Greensulate is another example of how anything can be made greener – even the materials inside walls.