You probably know that seven primary types of plastic are utilized worldwide, each with its unique characteristics in terms of size, color, application, and disposal. You may be an educated (and interested) customer who wonders, “But what types of plastic are recyclable?” In what ways may recycled plastic be put to use? If you’re interested in discovering which plastics may be recycled and are curious about the afterlife of plastic trash, read on!
WHAT’S CAUSING THE DELAYS IN RECYCLING
In principle, almost all plastics may be reused and recycled. But in fact, there might be a variety of other barriers that slow down this process. Unfortunately, there are times when it is not possible to do so due to environmental, economic, or technical constraints. Some of the reasons recycling is only sometimes an option are as follows. Recycling may be time-consuming and costly since many products have many layers of plastic that must be manually removed.
The resins become unusable when plastics get contaminated with food or other substances.
Recycling operations, which cost millions to build and run, are unprofitable unless they handle a large amount of plastic daily. Due to inefficiency and high costs, small-scale plastic recycling may become uneconomical and unprofitable.
Try not to give up! Despite the difficulties involved, recycling continues, and incredible results are achieved. Most recycled plastic comes from the trash consumers have already used. This means that the milk jugs, bottles, and packaging films you toss in the recycling bin will be transformed into post-consumer recycled material after the correct process.
At Plastics for Change, we use recycled plastic from consumer products to make shampoo bottles, decorative caps, and other products. But let’s take things slowly.
PET plastics may be recycled in their entirety.
Most plastics are recycled, but PET stands out. Although it is a fairly easy plastic to recycle, several countries still need help to reach acceptable rates. There are countries with rates higher than 50%, such as India, Europe, and South Korea, but neither the United States nor China has reached that benchmark.
The most available statistics suggest that in 2011, the world gathered roughly 7.5 million tons of PET. But into what exactly did they transform? Despite how ridiculous it may seem, PET plastic (usually found in plastic bottles) is regularly recycled into apparel. Items like polar fleece apparel, luggage, and rugs may be purchased. The plastic bottle you recycle today might become the material for a cool t-shirt you wear tomorrow. In reality, PET flakes are created during recycling and may be spun into yarn afterward. It is then used to create textiles like clothes and other textiles.
It is possible to recycle PET bottles back into PET bottles. They’re made out of one of the rare polymers that can be recycled into the same form, a brand-new drinking container. PET is typically mixed with a percentage of virgin material to increase its durability before it is used in a new product.
HDPE is widely accepted in recycling centers across the globe because it is one of the most recyclable plastic polymers. Recycling companies often gather HDPE products and transport them to massive processing facilities. An estimated 30 percent of LDPE plastic film scrap is recycled in the United States each year.
HDPE, like PET, may be clear or colored. Film packaging and bottles for non-food applications like detergent, motor oil, household cleaners, etc., are the primary markets for post-consumer recycled natural HDPE. On the flip side, colored LDPE plastic film scrap post-consumer recycled resin finds use in the pipe, lawn product, and non-food application bottle sectors.
HDPE is often downcycled into plastic lumber, tables, roadside curbs, benches, and other durable plastic items. Downcycling refers to recycling resources to create new, lower-value items.
Number 3 plastic, often known as polyvinyl chloride, cannot be recycled in standard curbside programs.
The infamous plastic bags used at supermarkets and other retail establishments are often made from Plastic Type #4, sometimes known as low-density polyethylene. In theory, LDPE plastic film scrap may be reused or recycled. However, as has previously been mentioned, the possibility of recycling does not ensure that it will occur. Plastic bags, for example, often get entangled in recycling machinery, jeopardizing the whole recycling operation.
Additionally, LDPE plastic film scrap is a low-cost, low-quality plastic, making recycling it unprofitable. Therefore, many municipalities will no longer accept #4 plastic in their curbside recycling bins. Despite these obstacles, LDPE may be recycled and reused in products like packaging films and trash can liners.
Polypropylene, or PP for short, is the final plastic that may be recycled. While PP is one of the most used plastics for packaging worldwide, very little is recycled in the United States. When its decline is gradual, it might take up to 30 years to completely disappear.
Another time you may have wondered why we throw away so much of something that can be recycled. The argument rests on the fact that reusing such knowledge is only sometimes financially beneficial. Polypropylene recycling is time-consuming and expensive, and in certain cases, the plastic will always retain the odor of the original product it was used to package.
In addition, the color of recycled PP is sometimes off-putting, coming out as black or grey and rendering it unfit for packaging. Therefore, PP is widely used in industrial applications, including speed bumps, park benches, automotive components, and plastic timber.