Have you ever wondered what happens to the plastic you throw in the recycling bin?
Well you’re not alone – many are unaware of what actually happens to their used plastic items when they get taken away by the early morning bin men.
As plastic is largely non-biodegradable, recycling is important to help the environments plastic pollution problem which sees tonnes of waste plastic polluting oceans every year.
The recycling process involves recovering any waste plastic and reprocessing it so that it can be used again as a new product and there are lots of different plastic types in the waste stream which need to be sorted.
The waste and recycling experts at Junk Hunters have put together a few facts about plastic recycling and tips on how you as a consumer can make the process easier.
The fact that plastics are light means that a lot needs to be collected in order to make recycling economical and it’s important that consumers remember to clean any food waste off of plastic material to make the recycling process simpler.
Take a look at the below breakdown of commonly recycled items and what to do with them.
The most common plastic packaging type – bottles are much easier to recycle as they are often developed to be recyclable and contain less polymer types. These should always go into plastic recycling flat and with the lids removed.
Plastic lids and caps are usually different in colour and polymer type to the bottle which can contaminate the bottle waste stream.
Because of this variant in polymers, lids need extra processing to separate them.
Most re-processors are now starting to separate lids from the bottles, but consumers are advised to do this themselves and to wash out and flatten bottles before putting them into the recycling.
Pots and containers
Plastic pots, containers and tubs are accepted with most plastic recycling but there are different types to be aware of that need to be treated differently.
Butter tubs need to be washed thoroughly as the oily product can often get into the plastic. These tubs are also made from a blend of polymers which are more difficult to separate during the recycling process. So ensure that they are washed thoroughly before putting in the recycling.
Yoghurt pots are often made from the same polymer as plastic bottles which means they are easily recyclable. Yoghurt pots are often prone to food contamination and consumers need to ensure that they are washed through.
Opaque and dark food trays
Lots of reprocessing plants use optical sorting equipment to recognise different polymers. Opaque black food trays such as the ones used for ready meal packaging cannot be identified, often resulting in them being rejected from the waste stream. So it’s best to leave these out of the plastic recycling as they will often be sent to landfill anyway.
Carrier bags and films
Household collections don’t usually accept soft plastic carrier bags and films due to separation issues and they can also cause problems if they tangle in machinery at reprocessing plants. There are carrier bag recycling facilities at some supermarkets, so check with your local supermarket to see if they can take them.