How does plastic recycling work?

How does plastic recycling work?

Why is Plastic Recycling important?

Reprocessing waste materials into useable products generally uses less energy and emits less green-house gasses than producing products from virgin materials. Emitting less green-house gasses reduces the rate of climate change.

Virgin plastics are produced from oil. By recycling plastics, less oil (fossil fuel) is needed to be extracted from the environment, reducing our impact on the environment.

Recycling plastics prevents plastics from being incinerated, dumped in landfill sites or worse, where the plastics can end up entering the surrounding environment, including water courses and the oceans where plastics can harm wildlife and natural ecosystems.

How does the Plastics Recycling Process work?

Essentially, plastic recycling is where plastic is collected and separated. The plastic can be collected from businesses, recycling centres and your home. It is then sent to a material recovery facility to have the plastics and non-plastics separated from each other. However, these plastics can also be separated by type if they are sent to a plastics recovery facility.

There are actually two versions of plastic recycling. These are mechanical recycling, where the plastics are ground down and converted into a different item, and chemical recycling, where the polymer structure can be changed to create a raw material and then something entirely new.

Mechanical plastic recycling facilities will use sorting equipment, including an optical sorter, trommel, ballistic separator and magnets to help categorise the plastics before they are reprocessed. From there, the plastics are shredded and hot washed. They are then resorted again and melted down before they are extruded into plastic pellets. The pellets can then be recycled into a brand-new product such as drink bottles.

How can I recycle Plastics?

Most developed countries offer residential recycling schemes, where recyclable materials are collected from the kerbside. It is important to check the recycling requirements for your local area to find out which materials are accepted for recycling.

Putting materials into the recycling bin which are not accepted for recycling in your local area increases the burden on recycling facilities, as they will need to remove the incorrectly placed materials. It is also important to rinse soiled packaging before putting into the recycling bin, as dirty package can contaminate other recycled materials, preventing them from being recycled.

Alasdair Mitchell