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.
Through 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.
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:
1. Learn what items and materials are accepted for recycling in your community.
On the one hand, all major types of plastics (#1 through #7) are recyclable, meaning that technologies to recycle these materials have been developed and are in use in some areas. Community recycling programs often collect plastic bottles made from PET (#1) and HDPE (#2). Although a growing number of communities have started to collect other types of plastic containers, such as tubs, trays, lids, buckets and so on; opportunities to recycle plastics vary widely. The only way to know what materials are accepted in your area is to check with your local recycling or solid waste facility.
How to check: One way to get started is to search the Web. Using your favorite search engine, enter the name of your municipality and the word “recycling”. Many municipalities list the types of materials they do and don’t accept on their websites, and some provide the names of locations where residents can drop off specific items for re-use or recycling (take it or leave it). Even if this information isn’t available on your municipalities’ website, you should be able to locate a phone number to call and ask.
2. Recycle often and recycle right.
In addition to making sure that plastic recyclables end up in the recycling bin, consumers can help keep out potential contaminants. Mixing the wrong types of materials (even other types of plastics) with recyclable plastics can lower the quality of recycled material. This is why it’s so important to learn which types of plastics are – and are not – recycled in your area, and to sort accordingly.
3. Deposit bottles in the bin – not the trash.
A “bottle” is a container that has a neck or an opening that is smaller than the base. Plastic bottles are among the most readily recycled plastics, but there’s still a lot we can do to recycle more of them. Look for beverage return bins at your work, school, and just about anywhere.
4. Bring bags back.
Bags are a valuable resource that can be used and reused may times, and at the end of their life cycle recycled.
There are exciting new technological advances that allow bags to be recycled into new bags or wonderful plastic lumber products such as siding, decking, patio furniture, laminate sub-flooring etc. Alberta has one of the best recycling rates on bags in the country. Albertans have an 88% recycling and reuse rate (about 30% recycling and 50% reused for a secondary purpose usually as a garbage container). The recovery structure in Alberta is a combination of take-back to retail, curbside and depots. For more information on plastic bag recycling visit the website www.myplasticbags.ca. To find the closest film recycling drop-off in your area visit this page: https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/
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.