What is Primary Recycling? Everything You Need to Know

By:     Kieran Donnelly

Primary recycling, also known as mechanical recycling or closed-loop recycling, is one of the most common and widely practised recycling methods worldwide. It offers several advantages in that it is cost-effective and reduces the demand for new production from virgin materials.

In this article, we’ll take a look at primary recycling, the materials that it is suitable for and the advantages and limitations of this type of recycling method.

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At Gradeall, we are committed to promoting responsible and sustainable waste management solutions and working towards a more circular economy. We manufacture innovative machinery that streamlines the recycling process for a range of different materials.

Primary recycling definition

Primary recycling, also known as mechanical recycling or closed-loop recycling, refers to the process of reusing waste materials by converting them back into their original form or similar products without undergoing significant changes in their chemical composition.

This recycling method involves collecting, sorting, and processing recyclable materials, such as plastics, metals, or paper, and converting them into new products or materials of the same type.

Advantages of primary recycling

Primary recycling is a well-established practice that’s used throughout the world, there are many benefits for pursuing this type of recycling method, including;

Reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills

Landfills can have detrimental effects on the environment and some materials can even take hundreds of years to decompose. Primary recycling keeps waste out of landfills and promotes a more circular economy.

Already has an established Infrastructure

Primary recycling has a well-developed infrastructure in many countries, with collection systems, sorting facilities, and recycling plants already in place to process recyclable materials.

Reducing the demand for virgin materials

Primary recycling also reduces the demand for the production of virgin materials, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. By reusing materials, primary recycling helps to conserve natural resources such as energy, water, and raw materials.

Cost-effective option

Primary recycling is often cost-effective compared to other recycling methods. It allows for the direct conversion of waste materials into new products or materials without extensive processing or chemical transformations that are often required from other methods such as secondary recycling.

With primary recycling, the materials go through a shorter and less complex recycling loop, allowing for more direct conversion and reuse.

Appeals to consumer demand

There is also a growing consumer awareness and demand for sustainable practices, including recycling. Businesses that adopt this method in the production of their products appeal to this demographic and position themselves as a responsible and environmentally-conscious brand.

Limitations of primary recycling

Primary recycling has its limitations, particularly in terms of the quality of the recycled material. Each time a material goes through the recycling process, it may lose some of its original properties or level of quality.

It is also important to note that not all materials can be effectively recycled through this method. Some materials, such as certain types of plastics or mixed-material packaging, may require alternative recycling methods or technologies.

Additionally, the effectiveness of primary recycling also depends on factors such as waste management policies, public participation, and industry collaborations within each country or region. However, as the technology evolves for waste management solutions, this should become a more accessible, convenient and popular method for managing waste.

If you would like to speak to someone about enhancing the recycling process within your operation, you can speak to someone at the Gradeall team. We will help you identify practical solutions for enhanced productivity and efficiency in waste management.

How does primary recycling work?

Primary recycling typically begins with collecting and sorting recyclable waste. This can be simplified with recycling machines such as balers, that are designed to condense the material into easily transported bales, i.e.) a clothing baler or can baler.

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The waste is then sent to a recycling facility that will clean the materials to remove any impurities or contaminants. The materials are then melted, shredded, or otherwise transformed to create raw materials that can be used in the production of new items.

For example, plastic bottles may be melted down and reprocessed to produce new plastic bottles or aluminium cans may be melted and reshaped into new aluminium cans.

What materials are suitable for primary recycling?

Primary recycling is a versatile option for managing waste sustainably. It is able to recycle a range of different materials, including:

Paper and cardboard

Waste paper and cardboard is suitable for primary recycling. The paper is collected, sorted, and processed to remove ink, staples, and other contaminants. It is then mixed with water to form a pulp, which is dried and pressed into new paper products.


Aluminium cans, steel containers, or other metal products can undergo primary recycling. The metals are collected, sorted, and melted to create ingots or billets. These can be used as raw materials for manufacturing new metal products, such as cans, car parts, or construction materials.

At Gradeall, we have manufactured the Tyre Rim Separator, which allows tyre handlers to extract valuable waste steel or alloy. It can then be sold on to recycling operations, which will pursue primary recycling methods with the waste metal.


Plastic bottles, containers, or packaging can be collected, sorted, and mechanically recycled. They are typically cleaned, shredded, and melted to create plastic pellets or flakes. These recycled materials can then be used to produce new plastic bottles, containers, or other plastic products. Nestle for example, now makes their water bottles from 100% recycled plastic.


Glass bottles, jars, or other glass items can undergo primary recycling. The glass is collected, sorted by colour, and crushed into small pieces called cullets. The cullet is melted at high temperatures and moulded into new glass bottles or other glass products.


Certain types of textile materials, such as cotton or wool, can be mechanically recycled. The textiles are collected, sorted, and processed to remove impurities and processed into fibres. These fibres can be used to make new fabrics or blended with other materials for various textile applications.

Contact Gradeall

At Gradeall, we manufacture industry-leading machinery that streamlines the waste management process. We are committed to working towards a more sustainable future that is supported by efficient and profitable solutions.

If you want to improve your waste management operation get in contact with Gradeall and we will be happy to support you with expert advice and honest opinion.

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