Glossary of Recycling Terms

 

Aluminum A light, strong, silver-colored metal made mostly of bauxite ore. One of the most common materials accepted for recycling. (MS)

Amber glass A term used by the glass industry to refer to brown glass. (MS)

Biodegradable Capable of being broken down by microorganisms into simple, stable compounds such as carbon dioxide and water. (MS)

Bottle bill A law requiring deposits on beverage containers. Proponents of this legislation believe that bottle bills encourage recycling. Opponents believe it is an unfair burden placed on an industry and does not improve recycling rates. (MS)

Brown goods Bulky household items that are difficult to recycle. Examples include mattresses and furniture. (MS)

Buy-back center A place to sell recyclable materials. (MS)

Buy recycled Purchasing products made from or that contain materials with recycled content. (MS)

Collection The process of picking up or collecting wastes or recyclable materials from residences, businesses or a collection point, loading them into a vehicle and transporting them to a processing, transfer or disposal site. (RS)

Commercial Waste Waste material that originates in wholesale business establishments, office buildings, stores, schools, hospitals and government agencies. Also known as retail waste. (MS)

Commingled A mixture of any number of recyclable materials which must usually be separated before they can be recycled. Single-container recycled waste collection allows for commingled items (such as cereal boxes, cans, plastics and paper), to be placed in one bin for later sorting. (See also single-stream.) (RS)

Commingled Recycling A mixture of several recyclables in one container, as opposed to collecting and storing each material type separately; does not refer to collecting garbage and recyclables together. (RR)

Conservation The planned management of natural resources to prevent loss, destruction or waste. (MS)

Construction and Demolition (C&D) A waste stream that is primarily received from construction sites. Some examples of C&D waste include, but are not limited to, concrete, rebar, wood, paneling, linoleum, and carpet. (WM)

Container Any receptacle used to accumulate waste from residential, commercial and industrial sites. Containers vary in size and type according to the needs of the customer or restrictions of the community. Containers are also referred to as dumpsters. (WM)

Contamination (of recyclable materials) Inadequate sorting of recyclable materials that interferes with the clean processing of recyclables. For example, a single ceramic coffee mug can cause a ten-ton load of glass bottles to be rejected by the end market; or contamination of office paper can occur if food, carbon paper, metal cans – essentially, any non-paper item – is added to the load. (RR)

Corrugated Cardboard A sturdy three-layer paper board shaped into parallel and alternating ridges and grooves; used in the manufacture of most shipping boxes. (RR)

Cradle-to-grave A system that manages solid waste from creation to disposal. In product design, it refers to its creation from raw or recycled materials through manufacturing, use, consumption and disposal. (MS)

Curbside collection A recycling program where recyclable materials are collected from homes or places of business by municipal or private parties for transfer to a designated collection site or recycling facility. (MS)

Disposal The final handling of solid waste, following collection and processing. Disposal most often means placement of wastes in a landfill. (RS)

Disposal Facility A waste facility permitted by the agency that is designed or operated for the purpose of disposing of waste on or in the land, together with any appurtenant facilities needed to process waste for disposal or transfer to another waste facility. (RR)

Diversion Waste material that is recycled, composted or reused, thereby diverting it away from a disposal facility. (RS)

Diversion rate A measure of the amount of waste being diverted from the municipal solid waste stream, either through recycling or composting. (MS)

Drop-off Box or Center Sectioned containers where individuals and businesses can put recyclable material or containers used for waste collection where individual service is not available. (WM)

Dumpster A generic term used for front-load and rear-load containers that can be used to dispose of household and commercial/industrial waste, debris, recyclables and other large volumes of material. The size of the dumpster varies depending on customer need. (RS)

End user A business or manufacturer that takes recyclable materials and converts them into new products. (MS)

Environmental Sustainability Managing resources, energy and waste in a responsible way for people and the planet. (RS)

Environmentally Friendly or Preferred Products or materials that have little or no adverse effect on the environment. Also referred to as “green” or “environmentally responsible,” the term is sometimes misused in product marketing to differentiate between alternatives that pose varying threats to the environment. (RR)

E-waste Electronic waste such as televisions and computers. (MS)

Flow control Typically, a local ordinance or municipal law requiring that solid waste produced in a specific geographic area is delivered to the government-owned processing or disposal facility. (RS)

Garbage Another word for solid waste, particularly household waste. (MS)

Hauling Fee A fee charged to roll-off customers calculated from the amount of time it takes to pick up their roll-off container or compactor, dispose of the waste and return it to the customer. (WM)

HDPE (High density polyethylene) A plastic resin commonly used to make milk jugs, detergent containers and base cups for plastic soda bottles. The standard plastic code for HDPE is #2. (MS)

Household Hazardous Waste Items used for household maintenance—such as paint, pesticides and pool chemicals—that residential customers should not place in their garbage. (RS)

Hopper The hopper is the part of a garbage truck or compactor where trash is emptied before compaction into the container. (WM)

Incineration The burning of waste. Incinerator – A furnace for burning garbage or other refuse. A waste-to-energy incinerator burns waste to produce useful energy. Incinerators are federally regulated. (MS)

Incinerator A furnace for burning garbage or other refuse. A waste-to-energy incinerator burns waste to produce useful energy. Incinerators are federally regulated. (MS)

Industrial waste Waste that results from industrial processes, including factories and treatment plants. (MS)

Landfill A large, outdoor site for the burial of solid waste (MS). Modern landfills have liner systems and other safeguards to prevent pollution. (RS)

LDPE (Low density polyethylene) A plastic used in shopping bags and garbage bags. The standard plastic code for LDPE is #4. (MS)

Mandate recycling Programs that by law require certain recycling practices or results. (MS)

Manual separation The sorting of recyclables from other waste by hand. (MS)

Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) A recycling center where materials are sorted into their various commodities (types of paper, metal, plastics, etc.) for marketing to end-users and manufacturers. (RS)

Mixed paper Waste paper of various kinds and quality. Examples include stationary, notepads, manila folders, and envelopes. (MS)

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) “Regular” garbage from non-industrial sources, such as residential homes, restaurants, retail centers, and office buildings. Typical MSW includes paper, discarded food items, and other general discards. Green waste is considered MSW and includes yard clippings, leaves, trees, etc. (WM)

Natural resources Valuable, naturally occurring items such as plants, animals, minerals, water and air that are used by people to help make things such as energy, food, clothing, and buildings. (MS)

Nonbiodegradable Does not degrade or break down in a compost pile. (MS)

Nonrecyclable Cannot be recycled. (MS)

Organics Material derived from plant or animal matter. These materials include anything that is or was living, made from something living, or excreted from something living (i.e. cotton). (RS)

Organic waste Discarded living material such as yard and food waste. (MS)

Packaging The wrapper, container or plastic film used to protect, identify and advertise a product. (MS)

Paperboard Heavyweight grades of paper commonly used for packaging products like cereal boxes. Paperboard is different from corrugated cardboard. (MS)

Paper stock Waste paper that has been sorted into different grades. (MS)

Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) A program that promotes waste reduction by charging for waste disposal based on the weight or volume of the material. It works on the premise that the more you throw away the more you pay. In addition, the more you recycle the less you throw away and less you pay. Also known as variable rate. (MS)

Pollution Harmful substances deposited in the air, water, or on land, leading to contamination of the environment. (MS)

PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) A plastic commonly used to make soft drink bottles and other food packaging like ketchup and salad dressing bottles. The standard plastic code for PET is #1. (MS)

PP (Polypropylene) Plastic material that is used to manufacture dairy tubs, lids and straws. The standard plastic code for PP is #5. (MS)

PS (Polystyrene) A lightweight plastic material often used in food services. Polystyrene products include tray, plates, bowls, cups and hinged containers. The standard plastic code for PS is #6. (MS)

PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) Plastic material used to manufacture piping, food and cosmetic containers. The standard plastic code for PVC is #3. (MS)

Post-consumer materials Recovered materials collected from consumer oriented recycling collection system or drop-off center. (MS)

Precycle To reduce waste at the source by changing buying habits. (MS)

Recycling The recovery of materials from the waste stream which are then used as a raw material for new products. Commonly recycled materials include paper, glass, plastic, cardboard and metals. (RS)

Recyclable Materials Materials that can be readily separated from the waste stream and collected for use as a substitute for new “virgin” raw materials in manufacturing. (RR)

Recycled Content The portion of a product that is made from recycled materials diverted from the waste stream; usually stated as a percentage by weight (see minimum content standards). (RR)

Recycling Center A recycling center where materials are sorted into their various commodities (types of paper, metal, plastics, etc.) for marketing to end-users and manufacturers. Also known as a materials recovery facility (MRF). (RR)

Redemption Center A recycling center where consumers can redeem recoverable materials for cash. (RR)

Reduce To lessen in amount. Reducing trash is a major solid waste management goal. (MS)

Residential Customers A segment of the collection business that is made up of single and multi-family dwellings. (WM) 

Resource Recovery Facility A facility that processes waste materials for recycling, reuse or use in a waste-to-energy facility. (RR)

RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) RCRA is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1976. RCRA’s primary goals are to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal, to conserve energy and natural resources, to reduce the amount of waste generated, and to ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner. (WM) 

Residential Customers A segment of the collection business that is made up of single and multi-family dwellings. (WM)

Resource Recovery Facility A facility that processes waste materials for recycling, reuse or use in a waste-to-energy facility. (RR)

Reusables Products or materials that, after serving their original function, can be used again in their present form; some are designed to be reused again and again, while others not specifically designed for reuse are used creatively to fill a need. (RR)

Solid Waste “Regular” garbage from non-industrial sources, such as residential homes, restaurants, retail centers, and office buildings. Typical MSW includes paper, discarded food items, and other general discards. Green waste is considered MSW and includes yard clippings, leaves, trees, etc. (WM)

Source Separation Separation of recyclables or compostable materials by the waste generator prior to collection. (RR)

Special Waste Any waste that requires special handling. Special waste is non-hazardous waste generally from an industrial generator and must be profiled to ensure that it does not contain elevated levels of potentially hazardous chemicals or materials. (WM)

Sustainability The practice of not taking from the earth those things that cannot be replaced. (MS)

Throwaway life style A phrase describing modern life with many disposable products and short-lived goods. (MS)

Tipping Fee A per-ton fee charged to haulers and citizens for waste delivered to a waste management facility such as a landfill or incinerator. (RR)

Tons per day (TPD) Used as a measurement of the solid waste disposal rate at a landfill, incinerator or materials recovery facility. (MS)

Transfer stations Facilities where trash is unloaded from collection vehicles and later reloaded onto larger, long-distance transport vehicles for shipment to landfills or other treatment or disposal facilities. (RS)

U.S. EPA: The United States Environmental Protection Agency An agency of the federal government charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress. (RS)

Vinyl (V) A common type of plastic used to make shampoo bottles and other containers. The standard plastic code is #3. (MS)

Waste Anything that is discarded or not considered useful. (MS)

Waste reduction An important waste management strategy that encourages people to generate less trash through practices such as reuse, recycling and buying products with less packaging. (RS)

Waste Stream Specific types of waste found in customer’s disposal (trash, cardboard, aluminum, metal, etc.) or a more broad definition of disposal type. (e.g. MSW, C&D, Hazardous, etc.) (WM)

Waste-to-energy plants Facilities that burn solid waste, gases or chemicals to produce energy. (MS)

White goods Appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, water heaters, washing machines, dryers and air conditioners. (MS)

Yard Waste Clippings, garden waste, leaves, prunings, shrub and tree waste, and weeds (see Minnesota Statutes §115A.03,Subd. 38); soft-bodied yard waste used to make mulch or compost, or land spread to condition soil; shrub and tree waste can be chipped for mulch, burned as fuel, or used for other purposes (e.g., firewood and saw-logs). (MS)

Zero Waste The concept of minimizing the amount of waste that one produces. To consumers, it means maximizing recycling efforts and wasting less. To waste collection and recycling service providers, it means finding and using the most cost effective and environmentally sound methods for collecting, processing, marketing and disposing of society’s wastes. (RS)


Sources:

  1. (WM) = Waste Management. (2017) “Glossary” http://www.wm.com/glossary.jsp
  2. (RS) = Republic Services. (2017) “Garbage Glossary) http://site.republicservices.com/corporate/environmenteducation/garbage-glossary.aspx
  3. (RR) = Rethinking Recycling. (2017) “Glossary” https://www.rethinkrecycling.com/businesses/glossary
  4. (MS) = Mississippi State Dept. of Environmental Quality. (2017) “Glossary of Recycling & Solid Waste Terms” http://www.deq.state.ms.us/MDEQ.nsf/pdf/Recycling_Glossary/$File/Glossaryofrecycling.pdf