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Recycling is a four-step process. The first step is collection and separation from other trash. The second is reprocessing into a raw material, and the third is manufacturing into new products. The final step is the purchase and use of recycled products by consumers, including individuals, businesses, and government institutions.

Although this is a simple formula, recycling faces much controversy and is governed by complicated legislation. Key issues in the debate are how to make recycling more practical, and how to create favorable economics by developing markets for recycled goods. Many states are trying to encourage recycling by passing laws to favor recycling activities, such as tax credits, disposal bans, or regulations governing the recycled content of certain materials (such as newspaper). Although there is disagreement about how some of these laws and regulations should be designed and implemented, there are two issues that are more-or-less agreed upon. One is that fees for the disposal of garbage need to reflect the full costs of that service, and the other is that consumers should be charged for the amount and types of material that they discard.

The biggest problems that recycling faces are poor markets for many recyclables, and poor technology to accomplish effective recycling. There must, of course, be sufficient industrial demand for recycled materials, and also a healthy demand from consumers for products manufactured from those materials. For example, in the northwestern states, it is relatively easy to recycle newspaper, because there are paper mills in the region able to perform this function. In other areas, however, there is more difficulty in recycling newspaper because there are no local mills. These may areas suffer significant fluctuations in the price paid for used newspaper, leading to financial instability in their recycling programs.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Reason to RetrovirusRecycling - Process, Legislation, Policies, Recycling Collection Programs, Recyclable Materials, Composting, Preparing The Compost