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Recycling Plastics: The Facts

Posted on: January 28, 2015

Plastic is one of the most common types of material to use in today's society, in fact, we now use around 20 times more plastic then we did 50 years ago. In the UK alone we use 15 million plastic bottles a day and despite the vast amount of plastic we use, we can optimise the lifespan of plastics by reusing and recycling items as many times as we like.

Environmentally Friendly

Using plastic bottles means we can recycle them and use them for bigger and better things. This means we can:

  • Protect non-renewable fossil fuels such as oil
  • Reduce the consumption of energy we use
  • Reduce the amount of solid waste that goes to landfills
  • Reduce the emission of gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere

How are plastic bottles recycled?

There are five steps to recycling plastic bottles:

  • Sorted
  • Shredded
  • Washed
  • Melted
  • Pelletised

What is made from recycled plastic?

There are many things that recycled plastic is used for, including:

  • Polyethylene bin liners and carrier bags
  • Plastic bottles
  • Flooring and window frames
  • Building insulation board
  • Video and compact disc cassette cases
  • Fencing and garden furniture
  • Office accessories
  • Water butts, garden sheds and composters

Different types of plastics

If you look on the side of the packaging in your fridge, you will notice a symbol which explains what type of plastic it's made out of and how to recycle it. Here are a few of the plastics we come across on a regular basis.

  • Degradable plastics: These types of plastic are made of oil substances and can be broken down into smaller pieces whn exposed to certain elements, such as heat. Degradable plastics are not suitable for biological waste treatments like anaerobic digestion or composting which in turn means they aren't likely to break down in a landfill site because of the lack of UV light and oxygen.
  • Biodegradable plastics:these can be broken down into such things as water and carbon dioxide through natural microorganisms.
  • Compostable plastics: these are a subdivision of biodegradable plastics, meaning they will biodegrade and disintegrate during composting to yield carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass. They don't leave any visually obvious or toxic residues.
  • Bio-based plastics: These are bioplastics which come from renewable biomass such as sugar cane. They are compatible with conventional plastic during the mechanical recycling process, therefore being used in packaging production.

We hope this has given you a better understanding of how plastic is used and recycled. For more information on recycling centres in your area, contact your local council.

recycled plastic bottles