We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are the Different Types of Recycling Plants?

By Alan Rankin
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
About Mechanics is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At About Mechanics, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Recycling plants process used materials that would otherwise be discarded as garbage, allowing them to be reused for various purposes. The different types of recycling plants include those that process glass, metals, and paper back into raw materials. Other plants focus on items that require complicated recycling processes, such as concrete, electronic equipment and various plastics. Single-stream recycling centers improve recycling rates by taking on an unpopular task, separating household waste into its various recyclable components. Some plants are designed to recycle items that cannot be processed by other facilities, such as Christmas lights or batteries.

The different types of recycling plants differ by the material they are geared to reclaim; each material requires a unique process and specialized equipment. For this reason, numerous plants are necessary to process all the recyclables from a given city or region. The exception is single-stream recycling plants, also known as single-sort or commingle plants. The equipment in these plants includes electromagnets for gathering metals, air blowers to remove light plastic bottles, and paper traps, all of which are activated by optical scanners. These plants are designed to quickly and efficiently separate various recyclables, some of which will be shipped to other plants for processing.

The most efficient recycling plants include those that process metals like aluminum and steel. The recycled materials generated by these plants are equal in quality to new materials; the same is true of glass recycling centers. Concrete is crushed and turned into gravel or road fill, a fairly simple and straightforward process. Biodegradable materials and organic waste are transformed into useful soils and fertilizers through a chemical process called composting. These low-cost, high-return recycling processes are important for business and environmental reasons, as they increase profitability for recycling companies and reduce the burden on natural resources.

Recycling plants that deal with paper and plastic are involved in more complicated processes. Paper must be soaked in water and reduced to a fibrous matter called pulp before it can be reused. Paper with chemical additives, such as “glossy” magazine or advertising pages, can impede this technique and must be processed separately. Plastics must likewise be separated during the recycling process, as there are many different kinds of plastic, each with its own unique chemical structure. Most plastic products are marked with a numerical system that identifies the type of plastic for recycling purposes.

Various electronic components require their own specialized recycling plants. Printer and toner cartridges, for example, can often be refilled and quickly returned to the market. Batteries, on the other hand, must be handled carefully because of potentially hazardous materials; the same is true of computer components, cell phones and other forms of electronic waste, often called “e-waste.” Some recycling plants focus on specialty items that ordinary plants are not equipped to process, such as Christmas lights or abandoned sea vessels. Concerns about the environment have led to an increase in the creation of such plants around the world.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On Sep 09, 2014

@MrsPramm - From what I can see, most communities that have good recycling systems going have educated the populace to only buy items that use packaging they can recycle. They don't try to have every kind of plant there, they just make good use of the ones they do have.

By MrsPramm — On Sep 08, 2014

@umbra21 - The other awful thing that happens is often when companies say they are "recycling" what they really mean is they are shipping the waste off to another country so that people can do the dangerous and underpaid work of stripping it and processing it, rather than doing it in a recycling plant.

There are definitely communities around where they have set up their recycling properly, but most of the time it seems to be done rather poorly, because people just expect their part to end once they dump the items in the recycling bin.

By umbra21 — On Sep 08, 2014

One of the big problems with recycling is the transport of materials to the closest plant. A lot of places don't produce enough waste of a particular kind to justify the cost of the machinery that is needed to process it, and even some places that do produce enough waste don't have the right kind of plant yet.

You can't just lump all plastic in together, for example, as it needs to be processed in different ways. Metals and glass and other things all need their own form of processing and that's not even mentioning the work that goes into separating the items in the first place.

What usually happens is that agencies are so eager to be seen collecting recycling that they don't consider the fact that the pollution from shipping it to a far away plant is more than their good deed is worth.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.