What do recyclables become?

What Do Your Recyclables Become

Everyday materials like plastic, paper, aluminum and glass can be recycled into a variety of new items. By making the choice to recycle, you are giving these products new life.

After recyclables are picked up at the curb, they are often sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), which is a specialized plant that receives, separates and prepares recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers.

Read on to discover what products can be made from items in your recycling bin.


These items are shredded and melted into pellets. Manufacturers use the different types of pellets to make new plastic products. For example, laundry detergent bottles might become buckets, toys or stadium seats. Milk or juice containers might end up as plastic lumber, outdoor play sets or new containers. Additionally, carpet, fleece and winter jacket insulation could contain materials from a recycled soda or water bottle.

Paper & Cardboard

Paper and cardboard are separated by type and then transported to a paper mill where the material is shredded and mixed into a pulp to make new products. Newspaper might become an egg carton, paper plate or construction paper. Magazines are often turned into newspapers or paperboard packaging. Junk mail and office paper are processed into facial and toilet tissue. Recycled paperboard is made into new paperboard, paper towel rolls and paper backing for roof shingles. Cardboard boxes usually get a second life as paper bags or paperboard.

Aluminum & Tin Cans

Aluminum cans are often shredded and melted to make new cans or foil. Because there is no loss in quality when melting down aluminum, it is possible to recycle this material indefinitely. In order to recycle tin cans, processing plants separate the steel from the tin. Steel, which is also infinitely recyclable, can then be used to make everything from bicycle and car parts to steel beams and rebar, household appliances or new cans.


Like aluminum and steel, glass can be recycled indefinitely and manufacturing recycled glass into new bottles or jars uses fewer resources than starting from scratch. Glass is melted down in order to make new containers or crushed into small shards and used for making bricks, paved surface and sports turf.