The CRV Recycling Process Explained

If you live in California, you know about the CRV recycling program. You work hard to make sure recycling happens in your home and workplace, and even earn back the CRV fee on the bottles, cans, and jars you recycle. But, what happens after you drop off your CRV items?

Take a look at the CRV recycling process that happens after you’ve dropped off your items. Each different material: plastic, glass, and aluminum, go through a slightly different process. Here’s what happens:

Aluminum Cans

One of the most impressively efficient items to recycle, the can you turn in at the recycling center may be back on a store shelf in as little as 60 days! So, what happens? First cans are sorted out from other recycling items, and dirty cans get cleaned. Make the recycling process more efficient by always rinsing and drying your cans before sending them in.

Then, they are crushed using special machinery with hydraulic panels. The cans usually get smashed into large blocks called bales. Next, the bales get sent to a separate aluminum processing center. There, the giant bales of cans are melted to remove paint, coatings or labels. Then, the melted metal gets poured into a mold known as an “ingot,” each of which contains 1.6 million cans.

The ingots get flattened into sheets of recycled aluminum at a finishing mill. Finally, the sheets are rolled up into spools. In the next and final step, the metal sheets get turned back into cans again, complete with new labels and of course, the product.

Glass Jars/Bottles

Glass is recyclable and like aluminum, can be recycled over and over again without any degradation of the material. Here’s how it works:

Glass is typically sorted out from other materials and broken into pieces. Usually, metal pieces are sorted out using a magnet. Then, glass is sorted by color. Today, there are specific machines that can do this job. Typically, clear glass is separated from other colored glass using air jets. Then, the glass gets crushed entirely and taken to a bottle factory.

The crushed recycled glass is mixed with sand, limestone and soda ash before it’s melted at a very high temperature. However, it doesn’t have to reach temperatures as high as required for making new glass. This means recycled glass saves on energy costs. Then, as with all bottle making, the glass is blown and shaped using specialized machinery. The bottles finally get shipped to beverage and food manufacturers who use them.

Plastic Bottles

The last CRV item? Plastic. Plastic bottles for juice, soda, water and other products are all sorted and separated at the recycling center. Then, they get smashed into giant bales that hold up to 7,200 bottles each. At this point, they’re usually shipped off to the next recycling center.

There, the bales are ripped apart and sorted to remove any metal that may still be lurking among the bottles. Then, labels and dirt get removed during a washing process. Next, machines chop bottles up into pieces and throw them into water again. This time, plastic is sorted based on what sinks and floats. Lids typically float, while the plastic of the actual bottle falls. These two types of plastic get processed separately.

Then, the pieces of plastic get melted into long thin spaghetti-like pieces. Once they cool, they are chopped up again into pellets. At this point, your bottle could become anything. Different recycled plastic purchasers use the plastic to make different things from plastic dishes to playground equipment, toothbrushes, storage containers, and even clothing!

Recycling CRV items give them new life. Through a relatively simple process, instead of sitting in a landfill, plastics, and glass can be reused for many different purposes. The most important part is that these processes are beneficial for the environment and protect our natural resources. What did you recycle today?

Have CRV items to recycle? Find an Ecology recycling center near you!