What happens to your recycling?

North Carolina recycling loop logo

After you roll your recycling to the curb or take it to the local drop-off, the journey to becoming a new product begins. 

  1. Mixed recyclables go to a material recovery facility (MRF) where people and machinery sort the recyclables into separate "commodities" of metal, plastic, cardboard, paper, and glass.  
  2. These commodities are purchased by recyclers who prepare them for manufacturing. 
    • Plastic is washed, chipped, and melted into pellets. 
    • Metals are melted in a furnace to make new blocks or sheets. 
    • Paper and cardboard are added to a pulper and made into new rolls of paper. 
    • Glass is broken and sorted by color and size.  
  3. These commodities have now become "feedstock" that manufacturers can use to make new products. 


Follow some example recycling loops in North Carolina through the interactive Recycling Story Map.

Learn about how North Carolina companies recycle...

Tab/Accordion Items

UNIFI turns plastic bottles into yarn at their REPREVE manufacturing facility in Yadkinville. REPREVE yarn is made from 100% recycled PET material, including post-consumer plastic bottles and pre-consumer plastic scrap. Through REPREVE, UNIFI has transformed more than 38 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new apparel, footwear, home goods and other consumer products.

Powerhouse Recycling in Salisbury, NC works with local governments and businesses to responsibly recycle used electronics such as computers. Sensitive information is destroyed and computers are shredded and broken down into steel, plastic, and precious metal circuit boards. Steel can be used to make new construction materials like rebar while plastic can become recycled plastic plywood or other products. Precious metals like gold, silver, copper and palladium are recovered from circuit boards to make new electronic components. Powerhouse Recycling processes a vast range of products beyond computers, including televisions, personal electronics, and solar panels. 

Southeastern Container manufactures high-quality recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles for Coca-Cola beverage products.  Bottle preforms are manufactured at Southeastern Container's Enka facility using recycled content ranging from 15 - 100 percent. The preforms are sent to the company's Kings Mountain facility to be blown into new drink bottles.

Recycle Right in your Community

The best way to contribute to a successful recycling system is to put the correct items in your recycling bin. Non-recyclable items make the entire material supply chain more costly and less effective.  

Recycle right by placing only empty cans, bottles, paper and cardboard in the recycling bin. Keep all plastic bags out and do not bag your recyclables. 

Find your local recycling guidelines.