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What is recycling?

Crushed cans in a recycling facilityCrushed cans in a recycling facilityTurning waste into new products and materials is called recycling. It is one of the “three Rs”: Reduction, Reusing and Recycling. Reducing waste means buying fewer products and choosing those ones made with recyclable materials and less packaging. Reusing means using products again wherever possible: for example, reusing plastic shopping bags or glass bottles. Recycling means turning the raw materials from old waste products into new products.


Pile of old electronic devices for recycling, ChinaPile of old electronic devices for recycling, China


Sorting waste by hand in BrazilSorting waste by hand in Brazil

What can be recycled?

Materials that are often recycled include paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, glass, textiles, tyres, electronic goods, concrete and biodegradable waste (which can be broken down by bacteria and other micro-organisms).

Up to about 60% of a household’s waste can be recycled. Over a year, the energy contained in that rubbish could power a television for 5000 hours.

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