Recycling is a necessity in today’s industry, yet many companies still struggle with determining what type of recycling offers the most benefits.
In fact, many do not realize that not all types of recycling are the same, nor offer the same level of sustainability. This can be important knowledge if your business places a high value on sustainability as well as cost-efficient procedures.
Two types of recycling are common in industry: Downcycling and Closed loop recycling. Here is how each differs and why closed loop recycling may be a more economical and sustainable choice for your company.
What Is Downcycling?
Downcycling, also known as open loop recycling, occurs when material that is no longer wanted is converted into something that holds a lesser value.
For example, let’s say we have excess fabric that has been cut when creating clothing. If we took these fabric scraps and created something out of them, such as another piece of clothing or a quilt, it increases or maintains the value of the product.
However, if we instead melt the fabric and turn it into yarn, although we are still recycling the material, it is now of lesser value. This is downcycling.
In manufacturing, downcycling often occurs when the input into the recycling process is converted to a new raw material. This new material is then used as an input into another manufacturing process. Materials in an open loop recycling process are also treated using various methods, including heat, chemical reactions and physical crushing.
This most frequently occurs in fuel blending, which involves combining spent solvents with compatible flammable materials and shipping these substances to the Midwest to be processed as a fuel source for cement kilns. Although this is considered a form of recycling, once these solvents are converted into fuel, the underlying resource is gone forever.
What Is Closed Loop Recycling?
Closed loop recycling is a process by which waste is collected, recycled and then used again as the same product it came from.
This process is restorative and regenerative by design, and unlike downcycling, closed loop recycling aims to keep materials at their highest utility and value always.
Closed loop recycling is common in specialized industries, such as the computer and battery industries. That’s because these industries typically use expensive or complex goods that cannot be broken down easily post-consumption into constituent materials.
An example of closed loop recycling can be found with the recycling of aluminum cans. Aluminum can be recycled to form new cans with little material degradation or waste creation.
For manufacturing facilities that generate spent solvents, closed loop recycling offers a more sustainable alternative to fuel blending. At Temarry Recycling, for example, the closed loop recycling process combines solvent distillation, waste to energy and water treatment to offer a “True Recycling” option for manufacturers that produce industrial solvents, organic solids and water-based hazardous waste.
Why Is Closed Loop Recycling Better?
By using hazardous waste streams that were previously earmarked for a landfill or cement kiln to be fuel blended, Temarry Recycling offers a sustainable alternative for manufacturers.
Closed loop recycling is a highly sustainable concept because the process can recycle material indefinitely without degradation of properties. Conversion of a used product back to raw material allows repeated making of the same product.
There are several benefits to this type of recycling, especially for hazardous waste generators located along the West Coast.
- A reduction in waste transport distance: The closest cement kilns that utilize hazardous waste as an alternative fuel are located in Kansas, Missouri and South Carolina. Temarry Recycling’s facility is located in Tecate, Mexico, just across the California-Mexico border. By decreasing the distance, a company will reduce its carbon footprint because less fuel is used for transport. That decrease in fuel usage will also decrease costs.
- Lower “cradle to grave” liability: Temarry Recycling is an EPA-authorized exporter of hazardous waste. Once your waste stream crosses the border, your liability for the waste stream ends.
- Highest level of sustainability: As companies work to improve their sustainability plans, working with a company like Temarry Recycling that invests in closed loop recycling technology can give you the highest level of sustainability for your waste stream.
Hazardous waste generators now have a more economical and environmentally conscious way of recycling materials, in particular, spent solvents. Yet many hazardous waste generators believe there are limited options when it comes to disposing of these solvents, and often turn to downcycling.
This is simply not the case. By incorporating closed loop recycling into your waste management, you can boost your company’s sustainability while at the same time taking advantage of several financial benefits.