Plastics are a substance that everyone uses every single day. Recycling is something that most people know about, but many do not take advantage of. By learning more about the recycling process, including what plastics can be recycled and the advantages of recycling, it can help you to see why it is important for you to jump on the recycling bandwagon. How does the recycling process work?
The Recycling Process
Before the recycling process begins, plastics are sorted according to their resin type. This is typically done by an automatic sort system to identify the resin, but in the past, it was done by hand, manually looking at the RIC or resin identification code, that is on the plastic.
Some plastics are also separated according to their color before the process begins. Shredding is the first step that is done in the recycling process and these shredded pieces are then processed to eliminate any impurities, such as paper labels. The pieces are then melted and are often extruded into pellet form to be used to manufacture other products. What plastics can you recycle?
Plastics That Can Be Recycled
The plastic manufacturers try to make it easier for consumers like us to know which plastics can be recycled. By putting a recycling symbol with a number on the bottom, you can see what type of plastic it is and whether or not it can be recycled. Your community recycling center can give you the numbers that they recycle as well. What do the numbers mean?
An RIC or resin identification code of 1 means that it is PET or PETE. This type of plastic is the most common and is used in all different types of packaging, including water bottles, peanut butter containers, salad dressing and oil containers, and soft drink bottles. It can be recycled into many different things, including fleece clothing, carpet, paneling, straps, fiber, tote bags, and occasionally even new containers. Most curbside recycling programs pick up this type of plastic.
An RIC of 2 is high-density polyethylene or HDPE plastic. This type of plastic is used in milk jugs, bleach containers, shampoo bottles, some trash bags or shopping bags, butter tubs, cereal box liners, and juice bottles. It is commonly allowed in curbside recycling programs, but check with your local area to see. It can be recycled into a few different things, including laundry detergent bottles, floor tile, drainage pipes, plastic doghouses, and more.
Number 3 plastics are rarely recycled, except by some plastic lumber manufacturers. This type of plastic is PVC and is used in pipes, windows, siding, medical equipment, and shampoo bottles, among other things.
An RIC of 4 means that you have LDPE or low-density polyethylene. This plastic is used for shopping bags, squeezable bottles, frozen food containers, and bread packaging. This type of plastic is not usually accepted through curbside recycling, but some communities will accept it at their recycling center. It can be recycled into compost bins, paneling, lumber, and more.
Number 5 plastics or polypropylene can be recycled through some recycling programs. This type of plastic is found in syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, some yogurt containers, straws, caps, and medicine bottles. The recycled plastic can be made into signal lights, brushes, brooms, ice scrapers, bicycle racks, and more.
An RIC of 6 means that you are dealing with polystyrene or PS. It is found in disposable plates, cups, egg cartons, CD cases, and other carryout containers. Some of the curbside programs accept this type of plastic and it can be recycled into light switch plates, foam packing, vents, rulers, and more.
News on the Recycling Front
One process that is somewhat new is the ability to make assorted plastic polymers into petroleum by a thermal depolymerization process. This will allow for almost every type of plastic to be recycled. Heat compression is another recycling process that is becoming more popular. This process takes the unsorted, clean plastic and mixes them together into tumblers to recycle them.
Plastic recycling is very important and by learning more about it, you will be able to take advantage of it to make your mark on the environment.