The Steps of Plastics Recycling

The Steps of Plastics Recycling

When it comes to embracing environmentally friendly technologies, recycling may not be as exciting as solar panels or hybrid cars, but it’s one area where consumers can make a huge difference.

Plastics BalingThrough municipal recycling programs, specific types of post-consumer plastics are collected, processed for recycling, and used to create an array of second-generation products – everything from fleece jackets and bottles for beverages and detergents to carpeting and even high-end composite lumber for outdoor decking.

Collection is only the first part of recycling, the recycling symbol has three arrows that represent three parts. Collection, remanufacture, and resale. So to continue past the first phase we need end markets with a demand for feedstock to produce recycled content and markets for those end products.


When you throw materials in your blue cart or take your materials to the depot, those materials are then transferred to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where the materials are sorted into their different streams (cardboard, paper, glass, tin, plastic etc.) The City of Calgary has a great video on how materials are sorted at their MRF.

For plastics, the materials are then baled and transferred to a processor who sorts them even further into their plastic resin numbers. Different optical sorters identify the resin types and air currents sort items into bins with the same resin. The materials are then washed, shredded and extruded into pellet form.

Plastics Recycling Plant


The recycled resin is then sold back into the manufacturing market to be used to make new products.


Those products are then resold to consumers and re-enter the marketplace.


The following tips can help make it easier to maximize the plastics you recycle:

Did You Know?

  • Recycling a ton of plastic bottles can save about 3.8 barrels of oil.
  • It takes one quarter pound of plastic to deliver one gallon of soda.
  • It takes about fourteen 591 ml beverage bottles to make an extra large T-shirt.
  • One Adirondack chair can be made from approximately 240 recycled milk jugs.