As most people know, plastic is a non-biodegradable product, and just disposing of it into landfills is extremely harmful to the environment.
Recycling plastic also has huge energy savings with one ton of plastic saving up to 5,774 kWh of energy, 98,000,000 btus of energy, 1,000-2,000 gallons of gasoline, 685 gallons of oil, 30 cubic yards of landfill space, 48,000 gallons of water.
What are the options for other companies, or you as a consumer? Each type of plastic has different recycling processes, and the end product has different uses.
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate).
This is the plastic typically found in drinks bottles and other food related products. This needs to be washed, and it is then flaked and dried.
This can then be melted and reformed into food-contact-approved recycled PET (RPET).
A growing market for RPET is also synthetic fabrics for the clothing industry.
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is often used for milk and juice jugs, as well as cleaning product bottles. It is typically downcycled into plastic lumber, tables, roadside curbs, benches, truck cargo liners, trash receptacles, stationery (e.g. rulers) and other durable plastic products and is usually in demand.
V (Vinyl) or PVC
Often used for windows and plastic piping, this can be broken down in a similar manor to HDPE and used to create building materials.
LDPE (low-density polyethylene)
This is the type of plastic that is used in shopping bags. LDPE plastic is the most common type of plastic used by UK manufacturers at 19.3%.
LDPE can be recycled into black bin bags.
PP is often used in straws, ketchup bottles and pill bott5le.s It is then flaked in a similar manner as PET and can be turned into rakes, brooms and even used in batteries.
Unfortunately, a lot of polystyrene products are not recycled due to a lack of incentive to invest in the compactors and logistical systems required.
When it is recycled, it can be used to produce expanded polystyrene (EPS) which can be added to insulation sheets used in construction.
Foam scrap can also be used to make clothes.
While it is possible to recycle all the above plastics, in the UK one of the major concerns we face with plastic recycling is the lack of consumer awareness of what can and cannot be recycled. In the past four years in England, the amount of waste rejected by recycling facilities has risen by 84%. The rejected waste then gets incinerated or dumped in a landfill.
A big example in the consumer sector is people placing food items in the plastic bin that have not been washed properly. This will often lead to the plastic product being rejected.
So, one of the most important factors in the future of recycling is raising consumer and commercial awareness about what can be recycled.