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Recycling is a broad term for the process of reclaiming materials from used products or from materials used in their manufacture and using them in the manufacturing of new products. Many products are now marked with a variety of recycling symbols, which are meant to help consumers and waste managers in separating recycled products and materials. Not all materials and products can be recycled, however. Those designed for disassembly or made from one material are the easiest. Even when used materials and products are recycled, often there is no economically viable market for these materials, and they are either disposed of with other waste or stored in warehouses for future uses. In an extreme example, we are now witnessing mining of old waste tips.

The following definition of recycling is from the European Union Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC on waste). “Any waste recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It does not include energy recovery or reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations.”

Various levels of recycling are recognized as set out in Table 1. It should be noted that quaternary recycling is outside of the EU definition (Table 1).

Closed loop recycling is the process of utilizing a recycled product in the manufacturing of a similar product or the remanufacturing of the same product. Ideally, this process can be repeated indefinitely.

Open loop recycling is the conversion of material from one or more products into a new product, involving a change in the inherent properties of the material itself (often with degradation in quality), for example, recycling plastic bottles into plastic drainage pipes. This is often called down-cycling or reprocessing.

For the purpose of this report, we regard the end application to be as a particulate filler, which may be recycled from the same use, or up or down-cycled from other uses. We do not include up or down-cycling of fillers to nonfiller uses.

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