Turning Trash to Treasure through Investing in Closed-Loop Recycling

Waste recycling constitutes a major campaign towards ameliorating the huge impact of waste on the environment.

Waste recycling constitutes a major campaign towards ameliorating the huge impact of waste on the environment. Continual environmental degradation resulting from the disposal of non-biodegradable materials and the consequent high-level pollution, has devastating impact on food, sea and wildlife.

The long-term result in global warming is currently threatening life on the planet. The campaign to reuse plastics, and bring the use of non-biodegradable packaging and materials to the minimum has continued to receive a lot of attention. This has given rise to continued investment in recycling by individuals, corporates and governments across the world, with many start-up springing up in the sector.

Paper waste recycling plant
Photo by Bas Emmen / Unsplash

Recycling has focused on material reclaim, reuse and reproduction or open-loop recycling. However, the ultimate goal of recycling, according to Dell Technologies, is to achieve zero waste. This will only be possible if post-consumer wastes are converted into materials and products that can be infinitely recycled in the process of closed-loop recycling which will finally eliminate waste disposal.

Sometimes referred to as downcycling or reprocessing, open-loop recycling involves the conversion of one or more post-consumer wastes into a new product, with a change in the original properties of the material. It is degradative in nature, and it is a form of delayed disposal because the wastes are converted into new raw materials which are used in the production of new materials that ultimately result in products that cannot be recycled again. Open loop recycling does not eliminate the landfill; it only delays it. In this sense, it is also a process of waste creation and an inefficient recycling process with limited potential to promote sustainability.

Due to the inefficiency of open-loop recycling, the attention of strategy is shifting to more efficient recycling processes with a shift from waste disposal to recovery and reproduction. This is the focus of closed-loop recycling where recyclable waste are potential raw materials. In this way, an indefinite process of recycling is not only created, but the new products that are generated are also recyclable.

There is a focus on waste management for environmental protection. In this way, environmental pollution by end products of recycling is also reduced or ultimately eliminated. Closed-loop recycling is essentially a production system integrated with recycling process. It is described by Dell Technologies as the ‘circular design’, which is not only environment-protecting, but also cost-effective.

Close up of a recycle garbage bin logo at Pershing Square in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Gary Chan / Unsplash

Open-Loop Recycling

New raw materials are produced, hence, recycled materials are used for purposes different from their original purposes.

High-level material degradation or waste creation.

End product cannot be recycled again

Disposal delay process; wastes are converted into new raw materials

Examples include fuel blending, manufacturing of fleece fabric from recycled plastic bottles.

Sample projects: Hewlett-Packard’s printing cartridges recycling, recycling of washing machines, refrigerators and air-conditioning units into new appliances by Panasonic, Japan and Method’s cleanup of plastic debris and the production of its 100 percent post-consumer plastic resin from the plastic.

Closed-Loop Recycling

Recycled waste is collected, recycled and then reused to make the same product it came from

Low level material degradation or waste creation

Materials can be recycled indefinitely

Restorative and regenerative process; wastes are reused for the same purpose

Examples include recycling of aluminium cans to form new cans

DS Smith’s closed-loop recycling involving collection of cardboard and recycling into new cardboard boxes, Dell Technologies’ closed-loop plastic recycling to produce new computers and monitors.

Further Reading

Tags: Recycling, Energy, Environment, Sustainability