Recycling is the process of recovering, reprocessing, and reusing waste materials that would otherwise be discarded and sent to landfills. Paper and paperboard, metals, plastic, and glass are the materials most commonly collected and processed. Along with source reduction and reuse, composting, energy recovery, treatment and disposal, and waste reduction, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes recycling as a key component of sustainable materials management.
Reusing and repurposing items for different uses are not new practices. Modern large-scale recycling in the United States, however, did not begin to develop until the 1970s. By the late 1980s, recycling rates were beginning to increase significantly. Only 7.3 percent, or 9.3 million tons, of the nation's municipal solid waste was recycled or...