Greenville County
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Solid Waste
Learn About Recyclables
Want to Learn more about Recycling?
What Happens to the Items That You Drop Off to be Recycled?

The items go to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF). From there the recyclables are separated by category, baled and shipped to end users.


Recycling Process: The aluminum is shredded, melted, and poured into ingots. The ingots are rolled into sheets. The process for recycling an aluminum can into a new can takes less that six weeks.

A more detailed explanation of the process can be found at

Advantages to recycling aluminum:

  • There is no limit to the number of times aluminum can be recycled
  • 95% decrease in air pollution
  • 97% decrease in water pollution
  • 95% decrease in energy consumption
  • 4 tons of bauxite and 1,500 pounds of petroleum coke and pitch for every ton of remelted aluminum

An informative look at the environmental benefits of recycled aluminum can be found at

Products made from recycled aluminum:

  • Cans
  • Pie Pans
  • House Siding
  • Small Appliances
  • Lawn Furniture
  • Aluminum Foil

Recycling Process: The paper is put into a big vat containing water and chemicals. In this vat the paper is chopped into small pieces and heated until it becomes a pulp. This pulp is forced through screens containing small holes or spun in large cylinders in order to remove contaminants like staples, plastic and glue. The pulp then goes through a deinking process. The pulp eventually will be mixed with water and chemicals and then sprayed onto a machine that extrudes the paper.

A more detailed explanation of the process can be found at

Advantages to making paper from recycled paper vs. virgin wood pulp:

  • 74% decrease in air pollution
  • 35% decrease in water pollution
  • 58% decrease in water consumption
  • 40% decrease in energy consumption

Products made from recycled paper:

  • Newspapers
  • Paper
  • Corrugated Boxes
  • Insulation
  • Boxboard such as cereal boxes, tissue boxes, shoeboxes
  • Kraft paper
  • Tissue paper and paper towels
  • Building materials

There are several types of plastic. The most commonly recycled plastics are high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). Water and soda bottles are usually #1 (PET) and laundry soap bottles and opaque, harder plastic jugs and bottles are usually #2 (HDPE). Plastic bottles and jugs are placed in recycling bins or drop-off containers, and are collected and brought to a (MRF) Materials Recycling Facility. The material is sorted according to the number on the container (the number on plastic containers indicates the particular type of plastic that was used to construct the container). Afterwards, the plastic is baled and loaded onto semi-trailer trucks. The plastic is transported from the MRF to a plastic manufacturing mill where it is cleaned, washed and either cut into flakes by a grinder or pelletized. Then the flakes or pellets are melted and stretched to form plastic fiber. Recycled plastic can be used to make a variety of products including t-shirts, carpets, pillows, fiberfill for sleeping bags, and jacket stuffing, more recycled plastic containers, hoses, pens, notebooks and many more products. HDPE plastic can be melted and made into material that looks like wood (and lasts longer, does not need as much maintenance, termites don’t like it and it saves trees. Often seen as benches, tables, signs and decks.

Interesting Facts about Plastic Recycling:

  • In 2006, Americans drank about 167 bottles of water each, but only recycled an average of 38 bottles per person, which equals about 50 billion plastic bottles consumed, only 23% being recycled. That leaves 38 billion water bottles in landfills.
  • Manufacturing bottled water uses over 1.5 million barrels of oil per year. In one year, that’s enough to oil to fuel 100,000 cars.
  • Plastic bottles go to landfills and take 700 years before they start to decompose.
  • In 2006 we spent $15 billion on bottled water. Consider using tap water and refilling one container. This saves oil (a non-renewable natural resource) energy in manufacturing and processing and landfill space!
  • The first PET (plastic # 1) bottle was recycled in 1977.
  • Five PET bottles will provide enough fiber to make an extra-large t-shirt.
  • It takes five two-liter PET bottles to make one square foot of carpet. *
  • It takes 35 two-liter PET bottles to make enough fiberfill for a ski jacket. *
  • It takes 1,050 milk jugs to make a 6 foot plastic park bench. **
  • Every hour Americans consume 2 ½ million plastic bottles. **

Source: * NAPCOR
** Recyclers’ Handbook
For more information, please visit the American Plastics Council website at

Get to know your recyclable plastics by number at

Plastic Bag Statistics:

  • It takes 1000 years for a plastic bag to decompose.
  • The average family in the United States uses 1,460 plastic bags per year.
  • 12 million barrels of oil are used annually to produce the plastic bags used in the U.S.
  • Less than 1% of all plastic bags get recycled in the U.S.
  • 88.5 billion plastic bags were consumed in the U.S. last year.
  • Worldwide, more than a million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • Roughly 60–80% of all marine debris, and 90% of floating debris is plastic.
  • Each year, the State of California spends approximately $25 million to landfill discarded plastic bags.
  • Plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish or sponges, cause harm to seabirds, marine mammals, fish, and sea turtles.

Recycling Process: The steel is separated into different grades of steel. It is torched and shredded into scrap. The scrap is remelted into new steel products.

A more detailed explanation of the process can be found at

Advantages to recycling steel:
Steel cans are 100% recyclable.

  • 86% decrease in air pollution
  • 76% decrease in water pollution
  • 40% decrease in water consumption
  • 95% decrease in energy consumption
  • 97% decrease in mining wastes

Products made from recycled steel:

  • Food cans
  • Cars
  • Bridges

More on Steel:
Roscoe’s Recycle Room

Library Resources
Click here for a list of library resources. Information on Solid Waste, Recycling, and Composting for all grade levels, Kindergarten - High School.