Rubbish bins


Recovery is a difficult term to define and is perhaps not especially useful without being qualified.  Recovery is often used as a catch-all phrase covering recycling, composting and incineration.  Within Australia at least, it is more common to use the term Recovery as shorthand for Resource Recovery.  Resource Recovery involves turning discarded materials into some kind of useful resource by chemically transforming those materials, typically into either energy or compost.   The most common examples of Resource Recovery involve the treatment of organic/carboniferous materials or energy from waste through thermal, chemical, or biological means.  It can be contrasted with the concept of Materials Recovery, which covers processes that capture and use the materials in their existing chemical state. 

Consider the following illustration of the difference between a recycling process and a Resource Recovery process when applied to a common household item newspaper.  Newspaper is constituted mainly of filaments of cellulose - essentially tiny wood fibres.  Old newspaper can be recycled by wetting and teasing the fibres apart to create a pulp.  This pulp can then be used as a direct input in the manufacture of new paper.  On the other hand, old newspapers can be recovered through a Resource Recovery process which destroys the cellulose and converts it into carbon dioxide, water, energy and a number of other products. 

Recycling recovery
Recycling: Newspaper (cellulose)  --> Paper (cellulose),
Resource Recovery:  Newspaper (cellulose)  -->  CO2, H2O, energy, other products 


Generally, there are two main groups of Resource Recovery  processes to be considered, Biological and Thermal.  To learn more about each type of Resource Recovery, click on the links below: 

Biological process include:

Thermal processes include:

Resource Recovery allows for the recovery of significant proportions of the waste stream, much higher than traditional organic processing such as green waste mulching.