- Items get picked up (usually single stream).
- Items are sorted at a recycling center (usually through a series of conveyor belts, magnets, and optical sorters).
- Individual components are baled together and shipped to different industrial facilities for reuse.
You may not, however, be so familiar with the details of the production process involved in turning that recyclable material into something seen on store shelves. A great graphic, published in Fast Company, details the many facilities involved in recycling a typical plastic laundry detergent bottle. This is then compared against the new cardboard casing from Seventh Generation — showing how the packaging technology omits a few processing steps, along with being more efficient in the others.
All in all, 81% of the cardboard bottle is recycled (compared to 29% of the old plastic one), and about half as much water is used in production of new containers. It's great to see this type of innovation being put to real world use, and we can't wait to see it extend to other products we commonly see in plastic containers — fabric softener, household cleaners and the like. Knowing the work and energy used to create recycled goods also underscores the importance of reuse and repurposing. (Images: Chris Perez, Graphic: Kelli Anderson)