Let’s get back to the basics. Recyclability is defined as a process of treating old waste materials and making them suitable for reuse. Plastic recycling is the practice of recovering old waste and scrap plastic, reprocessing it with additional materials, and turning them into useful and functional items.
However, plastics recyclability is often considered a vague term for industries because of the confusion attached to which the materials can and cannot be recycled. This ambiguity and confusion surrounding plastic recyclability and lack of interest on part of people results in lower rates of plastics’ recycling.
It’s important to cut through the confusion surrounding this term and to understand the crucial benefits to the decisions we make to recycle plastics. Join us in reducing highly inflated plastic pollution, cutting down consumption of virgin plastic resources, and conserving energy to protect our natural habitat.
The Far-Reaching Impact of Plastic:
Plastic is durable, long-lasting, economical, and lightweight. Due to its high flexibility, the material can be molded into many products suitable for many applications. There is an annual production of nearly 100 million tons of plastics across the globe. Additionally, 200 billion pounds of virgin materials are molded into millions of products every year. Due to the large impact of plastic production and its daily usage, it is essential to reuse, recycle, recover, and prevent the material from contaminating our planet. So which types of plastic can we start with?
To Recycle or Not to Recycle:
“To recycle or not to recycle” is a tricky question, because recycling some plastic types is not an economically viable option. Additionally, plastics to include PS (foam cutlery), LDPE (garbage bins), PP (food containers), and bottle caps cannot be recycled because they often jam or break recycling equipment.
So which plastic types CAN be recycled? The following are currently being recycled and reprocessed under global plastic curbing programs:
- PVC – Plasticized Polyvinyl chloride or polyvinyl chloride (Squeeze bottles, cordial juices, etc.)
- HDPE – High-density polyethylene (Shampoo containers, milk containers, etc.)
- PET – Polyethylene terephthalate (Soft drink bottles, fruit juice bottles, water bottles, etc.)
Breaking Down the Recyclability Process:
Plastic recyclability is a simple process, incorporating a series of steps to completion. The general methodology of recycling is collecting, sorting, shredding, washing, melting, and finally, pelletizing. The recyclability process can vary from product to product, depending on the base material.
Most recycling facilities use a basic two-step process: sorting and melting.
Sorting: First, it is ensured that all of sort of contamination is removed from the plastic waste stream. This is done manually or automatically at the collecting and sorting stage.
Melting: Next, the plastic waste is heated and melted. This can be done directly or by first shredding plastic waste into flakes and then melting. After the plastic waste is melted, it is ready for the final process of granulating.
Challenges With Plastic Recycling:
The plastic recycling industry faces several challenges, most notably, the difficulty for smaller amounts of plastic scrap to reach recycling units. Only 30 to 40 percent of plastic waste is reused or recycled. The reasons? There is lack of awareness among the general public, poor plastic recovery, and mixed types of plastics and resistant residues. Many of these challenges can be resolved through general awareness and waste removal programs. Additionally, plastic recycling industry experts believe that if the plastic products, packaging, and parts are designed and manufactured with the end goal of future recycling in mind, many problems can be addressed.