Everything you should know about plastic recycling
Plastic is everywhere around you. From plastic drink bottles to grocery bags, ID cards and everyday items that you are always using. One of the things about plastic is that it does make life easier, but it also comes with significant drawbacks. The major issue is that it creates litter and pollution, putting the environment – and as a result of our own life – in danger. Without proper plastic management, it becomes not a convenience but a hindrance to the human sustainability of the planet and its resources.
Things to Know about Plastic Recycling
That is what makes plastic recycling such an important procedure. It is a process of collecting waste plastic and recycling it into new and usable plastic products. Thanks to recycling, a large part of the world’s production of plastic don’t end up wasted but instead gets reprocessed and reused.
What are the types of plastics that can be recycled?
- PET – this is a thermoplastic that is largely used in the production of low-pressure products. The most popular use is drink bottles and clothing fibres.
- PVC – another type of thermoplastic, which is also quite widely used. The materials it goes into are pipes, wires, cling films and bottles.
- HDPE – compared to PVC, this thermoplastic is a lot softer and more flexible. It goes into the production of pipes and gallons.
- LDPE – largely used to make plastic bags, LDPE is probably one of the hardest types of plastic to recycle. A lot of times it is more sensible to reuse it than to recycle it.
How does recycling work?
Plastics are recycled in different ways, depending on their types. In general, there are two main methods for recycling:
- Traditional recycling – this is the most widespread recycling method, also referred to as mechanical recycling. It is largely used for the recycling of thermoplastics. They are collected and then melted, which makes processing them into new products possible in what is called injection moulding.
- Advanced recycling – this type of recycling features a few steps, such as pyrolysis, chemical recycling and gasification. Pyrolysis leads to plastics being recycled into crude oil. Gasification turns plastic materials into gas, which can then be transformed into energy.
What steps does recycling go through?
Manufacturing plastic is much more difficult than recycling plastic, but even so, the latter process is not that straightforward.
- Collection of waste – this is the first step of the process, which involves the collection of plastic waste. Depending on your area, you will have a separate collection of plastic materials, and you can further organise a collection site.
- Sorting the plastic – once it is collected, the waste goes into facilities where the separation process can begin. The goal is to organise the plastics in different types and sort them for recycling. Things like colour and resin content play a crucial role here.
- Washing – plastic is often full of impurities, which need to be washed away. Without washing away these impurities, the plastic can damage the new product, or the contaminants may not even be recyclable.
- Shredding/resizing – plastic can only be recycled in a smaller form. That is why it needs to go through shredding or another process that turns original products into fragments and pieces.
- Identification/separation – that is when plastic undergoes testing procedures. This is done to get a better idea of the class and quality of plastics. The plastic density is measured, as well as the air classification of the materials.
- Compounding – this is the final process of recycling. That is when recycles turn the plastic materials that have gone through all of the previous steps into usable materials.