Everything You Need to Know About Recycling Plastic

Everything You Need to Know About Recycling Plastic

Plastic, plastic, plastic. There is just so much of it everywhere. It is so readily available in our modern world and it is rapidly filling up our landfills. However, many people know very little about the process of plastic recycling so we decided to write this article to inform you of the journey your plastic goes through as soon as you throw it into the recycling.

Step One: Collection

Once you have finished with your plastic, it is best to stick it into your nearest recycling bin or collection point. It is from the collection point that the plastic begins its journey towards being recycled and reused.

Step Two: Sorting

Once collected, plastic is thoroughly sorted. All items of plastic are grouped by their resin content and colour. This process is important as it is done to ensure that all contaminates are eliminated.

Unfortunately, there are certain types of plastic that are not as easily recyclable and many facilities simply do not have the equipment that can handle every type of plastic so they must sell it on to companies that do. Ask your recycling company about what they do with items they cannot process.

Step Three: Shredding

After sorting, the plastics are ground into tiny pieces to make them more easily transportable. The heavier and lighter plastic flakes are separated using a specially designed machine. The separation process helps in ensuring that the different plastics are not put together or mixed up in the final product.

Step Four: Washing

After being completely separated, the flakes or chunks are then thoroughly washed with detergents to removing any remaining contamination. During the washing, the wash tank strips off any labels and thoroughly shreds any paper that has become mixed in with the plastics, reducing the risk of contamination.

Once the cleaning process is complete, the clean flakes are further separated before being subjected to moderate heat for drying.

Step Five: Melting

the dry flakes are then melted down. They can be melted down and moulded into a new shape or they can be melted down and processed into granules. The melting process is done using specialised equipment that is designed to maintain a steady temperature that gradually melts down the plastic without destroying it.

Step Six: Making of Pellets

After the melting process, the plastic pieces are then compressed into tiny, transportable pellets. In this state, the plastic pellets are ready for reuse or redesign into new plastic products. These pellets have a myriad of uses. They are sold to companies to be used in the making of different products, such as carpeting floor mats, motor oil, pipes, artificial fleeces and much more. However, due to the fact these plastics are now what is considered ‘post-consumer’ plastics, they can only be used for specific products and that rarely includes food or beverage containers. The reason for this is health and safety, the plastics are subject to absorbing chemicals during the recycling process or they are not refined enough to go back into the food packaging stream.

Does Recycling Plastic Work?

The answer to this question is a complicated one. Unfortunately, the plastic recycling process is fraught with flaws. Some of the dyes used in creating the plastic can be contaminated and cause an entire batch or potential recycling material to be scrapped. Additionally, there is still a large percentage of people who refuse to recycle, thus the actual numbers of plastics being returned for reuse are roughly 10% of what is purchased as new by customers.

Another issue at stake is the fact that producing recycled plastic does not reduce the need for virgin plastic. However, plastic recycling can and does reduce the consumption of other natural resources like timber, due to its use in making composite lumber and many other products.

 

The value of recycling plastic is undeniable because it dramatically reduces the amount of plastic sent to landfills. Reusing our plastic also helps to reduce pollution that arises from the plastic production process. We hope this article has been informative and helped you learn more about the recycling process.

Author: Ben Taylor

Eco Warrior! Recycling Buff! Owner of James Waste Management LLP, UK recycling over 90% of waste.

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