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Glossary

Aluminum – Aluminum is a lightweight, silver-white, metallic element that makes up approximately 7 percent of the Earth’s crust.  Aluminum is used in a variety of ways, but perhaps most familiarly in the manufacture of soft drink cans.  Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours.

Biodegradable – The property of a substance that permits it to be broken down by microorganisms into simple, stable compounds such as carbon dioxide and water.

Close the Loop – A term used to describe the last, and most important, step in the recycling process.  It refers to the point when a consumer buys a recycled product after it has been put into a recycling program and reprocessed into a new item.

Compost – Composting is Nature’s way of recycling.  Composting is a waste management process that creates an optimal environment for decomposition by layering organic wastes like food scraps and grass clippings so they will decay into fertile humus.

Conserve – To protect from loss or depletion.  Conservation is the wise use of natural resources (nutrients, minerals, water, plants, animals, etc.) to minimize loss and waste.

Decompose – To break down into component parts or basic elements; to rot.  Decomposition is an organic process necessary for the continuation of life since it makes essential nutrients available for use by plants and animals.

Glass – Glass is a hard, brittle, generally transparent or translucent material typically formed from the rapid cooling of liquefied minerals.  Most commercial glass is made from molten mixture of soda ash, sand and lime.  Every ton of glass recycled saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil.

HDPE (#2 Plastic) – High density polyethylene.  A type of plastic that is commonly used in milk and water jugs and is marked on the bottom of the containers with a triangle symbol with a number two in the center (#2).  HDPE plastic is used to make industrial floor coverings, drums and pails, agricultural drain tile, flower pots and plastic lumber.

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) – A product that is discarded from a home or similar source that is ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic (e.g. used motor oil, oil-based paints, auto batteries, gasoline, pesticides, etc.).

Humus – Organic material consisting of decayed vegetable matter that provides nutrients for plants and increases the ability of the soil to retain water.

Leachate – Liquid that has percolated through solid waste and/or has been generated by solid waste decomposition and contains extracted, dissolved or suspended materials.  May contaminate ground or surface water.

Litter – Waste that is improperly disposed of on the street, sidewalk, lakes and other bodies of water, and in the environment.

Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) - A facility that processes residentially collected mixed recyclables into new products available for market.

Methane - A colorless, nonpoisonous, flammable gas created by anaerobic decomposition of organic compounds. A major component of natural gas used in the home.

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) - Garbage of refuse that is generated by households, commercial establishments, industrial offices or lunchrooms and sludge’s not regulated as a residual or hazardous waste.

Natural Resource – Valuable, naturally occurring material such as soil, wood, air, water, oil or minerals.

Non-Renewable Resource – A resource that is NOT capable of being naturally restored or replenished; a resource that is exhausted because it has not been replaced (e.g. copper) or because it is used faster than it can be replaced (e.g. oil, coal). 

Organic – A term that refers to molecules made up of two or more atoms or carbon generally pertains to compounds formed by organisms.

Paper – A thin material made of pulp from wood, rags, or other fibrous materials and used for writing, printing, or wrapping.

PET (#1 Plastic) – Polyethylene terepthalate.  A plastic used to make soft drink bottles and other kinds of food containers and is marked on the bottom with a triangle symbol with the number one in the center (#1).  Recycled PET plastic is used to make fiberfill stuffing, carpeting, scouring pads, clothing, rope, and twine, industrial strapping and molded plastics.

Plastic – A material made from petroleum capable of being molded, extruded, or cast into various shapes.  There are many different kinds of plastic made from different combinations of compounds.  To learn more about the plastic resin codes #1 - #7 and what these plastics are recycling into, check out the American Plastics Council.

Pollution – Contamination of air, soil, or water with harmful substances.

Post-Consumer – A term used to describe material that is being reused/recycled after it has been in the consumer’s hands (e.g. a newspaper going back to the paper mill to be recycled into new recycled content paper products).  Material or product used by the consumer for its original purpose and then discarded.

Pre-Consumer – A term used to describe material that is being reused/recycled before it ever goes to market (e.g. paper scraps off a paper mill floor going back into the next batch of paper).  Waste material generated during the manufacturing process.

Recyclable – A term used to designate that a product or its package can be recycled.

Recycled Symbol – The chasing arrow symbol used to show that a product or package may be recycled if there is a program available. On plastics, it is used along with a numbering system (1-7) to help designate plastic resins used in the product.

The three arrows on the symbol represent different components of the recycling process. The top arrow represents the collection of recyclable materials (e.g. an aluminum can, a piece of white office paper, a plastic #2 milk jug) for processing. The collection can be from a curbside collection or a drop-off site. The second arrow (bottom right) represents the recyclables being processed into recycled products (e.g. a new aluminum can from an old aluminum can, notebook paper from white office paper, a park bench from recycled plastic milk jugs). The third arrow on the bottom left is the most important arrow. This one represents when the consumer actually buys a product with recycled content. This is the most important step as it closes the recycling loop. Without this last step, we are pretty much just sorting our garbage.

Recycled – A term used to describe material that has been separated from the waste stream, reprocessed into a new product (often taking the place of virgin material), and then brought back by the consumer as a new item.

Recycled Content – The amount of pre-consumer and post-consumer recovered material introduced as a feed stock in a material production process, usually expressed as a percentage (e.g. 30% post-consumer content).

Recycling – Term used to describe a series of activities that includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers, and manufacturing the raw materials into new products.

Recycling Center – A place where recyclables are collected and/or processed (such as separation and baling) in preparation for market.

Renewable Resource – A resource that is capable of being naturally restored or replenished (e.g. trees).

Reduce – To lessen in extent, amount, number or other quantity.

Reuse – To extend the life of an item by using it again, repairing it, modifying it or creating new uses for it (e.g. peanut butter jar for a collection; wash and reuse dishes).

Sanitary Landfill – A landfill that has been designed and engineered to accept municipal waste while ensuring minimal negative impact upon the environment.

Solid Waste – All solid, semi-solid liquid and gaseous wastes, including trash, garbage, yard waste, ashes, industrial waste, swill, demolition and construction waste and household discards such as appliance, furniture and equipment.

Solid Waste Management – The controlling, handling and disposal of all solid waste.  One goal of solid waste management is to reduce waste to a minimum.

Steel – A strong, durable material made of iron and carbon, and often other materials, to achieve different properties.  Steel is often used as a component in cans and as a structural material in construction.  For every pound of steel recycled, the energy saved would light a 60-watt light bulb for more than 26 hours.

Source Reduction - Reducing the amount and/or toxicity of an item before it is ever generated (e.g. buying an item with less packaging, using a non-toxic alternative to clean with) – also called waste prevention.

Vermicomposting - The process whereby worms feed on slowly decomposing materials (e.g., vegetable scraps) in a controlled environment to produce a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

Virgin Product – Term that refers to products that are made with 100 percent new raw materials and contain no recycled materials

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