Circumstances dictate that we go beyond the Mobius loop. The familiar symbol of three arrows chasing each other in a triangle indicates a product that can be recycled, but not necessarily that it was sourced from recycled material. This is where closed loop recycling is different.
A number in the middle indicates the type of plastic and the process to recycle it. But the closed loop recycling process goes a step beyond. It indicates a process through which a material or product can be recycled an indefinite number of times without it losing its properties.
The ideal situation for the plastic industry would be to enable closed loop recycling. This process reuses and recycles products without any material loss. This helps reduce waste and leads to the use of fewer raw materials. Goods get recycled and reproduced into the same, or a similar product each time, and ideally, nothing ends up dumps.
Closed loop recycling is ideal for glass and aluminum as these are reprocessed an endless number of times with any degradation of the quality of the materials and minimal loss. But not all materials can be processed through the closed loop recycling process.
Going Through The Closed Loop Recycling Process
In an ideal situation, every product should be made from existing waste material. That would help obviate the necessity for new or ‘virgin’ material. The focus would be on the use of sustainable materials. As per US Environmental Protection Agency figures, recycled glass required 30% less energy when using recycled material. The same goes for aluminum and the figures are even more impressive. Recycling consumes 95% less energy.
The Three Steps In Closed Loop Recycling
The closed loop recycling process also involves 3 steps covering the use of the product, its recycling, and the manufacture of a new product without ever going into a landfill.
This makes it better than products that go through the open-loop recycling process that need the addition of virgin material.
Though aluminum and glass are just ideal for the closed loop recycling process, several types of plastic are also suitable as they do not lose their quality during the recycling process.
The process varies across waste types though the overall process is as follows.
The first step is collecting the waste. You need someone to fill the blue bin before you move on to the next step in the closed loop recycling process. Once collected, the recyclable materials are next transported to centers that process the materials and convert them for the specialized manufacturing process.
Manufacturing takes place at plants where new products are compacted, shredded, and melted to convert them to make new products.
The third step requires the involvement of concerned citizens. The three steps in the closed loop recycling process are closed when discerning consumers purchase the goods that have been manufactured from reprocessed materials. People must favor such items that can be processed an indefinite number of times to continue in the closed loop recycling system.
How Does The Closed Loop Recycling Process Score Over The Open Loop?
The process of recycling materials that have already reached the very end of their life cycle and then turning them into fresh products helps us significantly by reducing the waste we generate.
But to close the loop, manufacturers have to do a lot more than merely recycle items. They need to utilize the recycled materials into fresh products that get customers interested and compel them to buy the products.
The drawback of the open-loop system is that the manufactured goods cannot be recycled for an indefinite period. The reprocessed materials are instead converted into a combination of recycled and fresh virgin materials.
More often, materials that are used in an open-loop system cannot be recycled multiple times, at times stopping at just one cycle. For instance, it is not possible to recycle paper multiple times as the fibers get shorter after each recycling process and it loses its original durability.
Open-loop recycling merely delays the inevitable. The journey from virgin material to the landfill only gets longer through this system. The original material is converted into another one before it is finally trashed.
On the other hand, the closed loop recycling system avoids the result of the landfill. At the initial stage itself, the product’s recycling capability is considered before it moves on from design to manufacturing.
Ensuring That The Loop Closes And Stays So
We need to realize that recycling is not the answer to our environmental issues. Even today, only 9% of all products are recycled, the rest all end up in landfills or flow out to the oceans.
Reconsidering before going for a product is a saner approach. Consumers can bring down waste by reducing the use of unnecessary goods, and trying to repair and repurpose goods before considering discarding them.
But if you buy it, the first consideration should be whether the material that goes into making the product can be used in perpetuity. In this regard, glass, and metals like iron and aluminum score over plastic.
Staying plastic-free is the sanest option, as most end up in landfills after being processed just once. And most cannot be recycled even once. We dispose of 70 million tons of plastic each year, which is the equivalent of dumping one double-decker busload every second.
Making an informed decision before purchasing and checking out the recycling facilities in your area helps greatly in making informed decisions. Small steps like seeking out a recycling drop point if your lane doesn’t have one can make a lot of difference in the long process.