These days, more and more American consumers are participating in recycling programs, typically in an effort to support environmental sustainability and foster a brighter future for the planet. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the recycling rate in the United States has risen from less than 7% in 1960 to more than 30% today.
Millions upon millions of Americans may be familiar with the front end of the recycling process. A big part of that, of course, takes place right at their own curbsides via materials collection, but not nearly as many are as keenly aware of where the process goes from there. And as a result, many consumers might be surprised to learn that a range of items they use every day are made from recycled materials.
Consider these 15 commonly encountered (and sometimes-surprising) items that are often products of the recycling process:
- Playground equipment — Often, the “plastic lumber” used to create recreational equipment such as slides, swings and seesaws on children’s playgrounds is made from high-density polyethylene — which is regularly recovered from recycled milk jugs.
- Picnic tables, benches and other outdoor furniture — The same “plastic lumber” that’s used to create the above-mentioned playground equipment is also used to make a range of other commonly encountered consumer goods. Some of these products composed of recycled high-density polyethylene include outdoor furniture such as tables, benches and chairs. The material is also frequently used to build outdoor decking that’s resistant to sunshine, rain and other often-damaging environmental elements.
- Kitty litter — To give them a more eco-friendly composition, some brands of cat litter are made with recycled newspapers. And as an added bonus, since they’re not clay-based (as many kitty litters are), these litters don’t create unpleasant dust clouds when they get stirred up.
- Soap — Rather than throw away the partially used bars of soap left in their rooms’ showers when guests depart, some hotels collect them to be cleaned up and sent to less-developed countries where such personal-hygiene supplies can be more of a challenge to track down.
- Toothbrushes — Soap isn’t the only element of the personal-hygiene routine that can be green. The plastic handles consumers use to keep their pearly whites fresh and clean are sometimes made with recycled plastic, such as polypropylene.
- Roads — Many asphalt manufacturers grind up discarded roofing shingles and add them to their paving products to boost the quality of the resulting pavement. In addition, highway markers often incorporate recycled glass to enhance their reflective properties.
- Winter coats — To add some eco-friendly warmth to their jackets, some clothing manufacturers line them with polyester made from recycled plastic bottles — with some of the coats containing up to 150 containers’ worth of recycled materials.
- Sleeping bags — As with the jackets mentioned just above, sleeping bags often incorporate warmth-lending recycled materials. Recycled plastics and fiber materials are often used for this purpose, and repurposed coconut shells can sometimes even serve the same role.
- Baseball bats — The aluminum bats that players take to the plate in baseball games worldwide are often made from recycled aluminum cans. The same recycled cans can be used to make a number of other products ranging from license plates and thumbtacks to car bodies, appliances … and new aluminum cans.
- Bikes — Recyclables are rolling into the recreation arena in other ways, too. Some companies are using recycled aluminum (frames) and cork (grips and seats) to make eco-friendly bicycles. Bikes made with bamboo and cardboard are a thing, too.
- Bricks and other building materials — Recycled glass can be ground down into very fine shards that are used to make the bricks often used in home construction. Further, tough plastics such as PVC can be recycled and used to make other building materials, such as window frames, fencing and decking.
- Coffins — Eco-friendly offerings can even reduce our carbon footprints in the afterlife, as some companies are now producing “green” — and often even biodegradable — coffins made with recycled paper or bamboo.
- Backpacks — Perfect for consumers who are willing to carry the weight of the world’s future on their shoulders, some of today’s backpacks are being made with earth-friendly materials — such as previously used inner tubes, recycled plastics and recycled aerospace mesh.
- Diapers — Babies can even get in on the green act, as some diaper makers are offering options made with recycled plastic. (And even eco-conscious parents who typically choose to use eco-friendly cloth diapers might find added convenience in carrying a disposable diaper on occasional outings.)
- Trash bags and grocery bags — The reusable grocery bags that are meant to eliminate the need for single-use plastic grocery bags are sometimes made from recycled versions of the grocery bags themselves. Garbage bags can be made entirely from recycled plastic, too.
A couple ways Wastequip is actively supporting sustainability
Wastequip, North America’s leading manufacturer of waste handling equipment, is also committed to doing its part for the planet — and has vowed to lead the way toward waste-industry sustainability by example. Among the ways the Wastequip family of brands is demonstrating its commitment to environmental and social responsibility in the waste industry:
- Project25: In 2021, Wastequip brand Toter launched its Project25 initiative, which includes a commitment to reducing the amount of virgin resin used in its cart manufacturing by 25%. The goal will help reduce Toter’s carbon footprint by at least 9% per cart.
- EVR-Green: Exhibiting a commitment to environmental innovation, Toter also recently introduced the EVR Green Cart, which features the waste and recycling industry’s first cart body made from 100% recycled material.
To learn more about Wastequip’s commitment to taking the lead on sustainability in the waste industry, visit the Wastequip website’s Sustainability page.
Wastequip is the leading North American manufacturer of waste handling equipment, with an international network of manufacturing facilities and the most extensive dealer network in the industry. Wastequip’s broad range of waste and recycling equipment, trucks and systems is used to collect, process and transport recyclables, solid waste, liquid waste and organics. The company’s brands include Amrep®, Accurate™, ConFab®, ContainerPros®, Galbreath®, Mountain Tarp®, Pioneer™, Toter®, Wastebuilt®, Wastequip®, Wastequip WRX™ and wasteware™. For more information, visit www.wastequip.com.
Toter is the leading provider of waste and recycling carts to waste haulers and municipalities in North America. Additional products include specialty carts for document management, electronic waste, organics, medical waste and more. Manufactured using Advanced Rotational Molding, Toter carts offer a greater service life than injection-molded carts. Toter is also the only commercial-grade cart available to consumers at retailers nationwide. Toter is a division of Wastequip. Learn more on the web at www.toter.com.