Closed-loop recycling is the process by which a product or material can be used and then turned into a new product (or converted back to raw material) indefinitely without losing its properties during the recycling process.
In a closed-loop recycling system, products are designed in a way that benefits the overall supply chain, emphasizing universal collection and recovery, ease of re-manufacturing, and economic feasibility.
Prime examples of closed-loop recycling products include glass used for bottles and jars, aluminum used for cans and tins, and a very limited amount of plastics. Glass and aluminum are infinitely recyclable with no degradation of quality, making them infinitely valuable to the loop. In fact, about 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today. Unfortunately, only 2% of global plastic production is reused for the same or similar products.
Closed-loop differs from the far more widespread and achievable concept of open-loop recycling, which doesn’t depend on the output of the process. In this system, the end of the product life cycle can take multiple routes: recycled as raw material for new, yet inferior, products or rejected as waste.
Closed-loop Recycling Process
Closed-loop recycling involves: collecting and sorting recycled materials, extracting resources from the materials, and using those resources as inputs in the manufacturing of products practically identical to the original. Recycled materials are collected from homes, businesses, and recycling banks.
The most suitable materials for closed-loop recycling are aluminum, glass, and plastic. These are known to maintain their quality throughout many cycles of extraction, production, use, and recycling. For example, aluminum cans can be recycled and turned into new cans with practically no material degradation or waste.
What are the benefits of a closed-loop system?
The process of recycling products that have reached the end of their life and turning them into new products has helped us significantly reduce the amount of waste we generate today. However, in order to close the loop, manufacturers must do more than simply recycle items they must use recycled materials to make new products and consumers must be interested enough to purchase those products.
Many materials, such as plastic, can be recycled indefinitely (depending on the recycling method used), which means a product can potentially cycle through the loop repeatedly. In this way, the need for new materials is greatly reduced.