What Plastic? Let’s Make It Pragmatic~ #KnowYourPlastic

We, the learned men, stand for a cause that can bring a positive change. One such cause is the wise dealing of plastics. People mostly believe that no matter how much plastic they use they can just make it up to the dear environment by practicing recycling. But in our previous blog, we learned that not every plastic is recyclable. It is high time that we become aware of the recyclable plastics and the ones which are not. 

What Plastics Are Recyclable?

On 20th May 2021, Plastic For Change published an article where they stated that there are 7 different types of plastic utilized around the world; they vary in size, color, usage, and disposal. The concern that we want to raise is that not all of these plastics are recyclable but one must be aware of the recyclable plastics. Those are~

  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): PET is the most frequently recycled plastic in the world. PET bottles can be recycled to make more PET bottles! In reality, they are made of one of the few polymers that can be recycled indefinitely into the same form — a new beverage container. During the process, the PET is often blended in a virgin-to-recycled ratio to give the material strength for use in a new product.

One of the most interesting facts about PET recycling is that a substantial part of collected PET plastic is recycled into fashion products. Polar fleece clothing, backpacks, and rugs are among the goods created. You might be astonished to discover that PET bottles can be recycled into cool t-shirts. This recycling procedure requires converting PET plastics into flakes that can then be spun into yarn. These yarns are then utilized to produce clothing and other textile garments.

Did you know that (according to a report by PETRA) each year, approximately 1.5 billion pounds of discarded PET bottles and containers are recovered for recycling in the United States, making it the most recycled plastic in the country?

  • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): HDPE is one of the easiest plastic polymers to recycle, hence, it is accepted at the majority of recycling centers across the world. HDPE can be clear or colored (colored). Non-food application bottles such as detergent, motor oil, household cleaners, and so on, as well as film packaging, are the key markets for post-consumer recycled natural HDPE. Pigmented HDPE post-consumer recycled resin markets, on the other hand, include pipe, lawn products, and non-food application bottles.

HDPE is frequently downcycled (a recycling method that entails the reuse of resources for lower-value goods) into plastic lumber, tables, roadside curbs, benches, and other long-lasting plastic products.

According to Moore's 2014 Non-bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling research, HDPE rigid containers had the second greatest recovery rates at 34.1 percent, trailing only polypropylene at 38.3 percent.

  • Polypropylene (PP): Although it is one of the most widely used plastic packaging materials across the globe, only around 1-3% of it is recycled in the United States, implying that the vast majority of PP is destined for the landfill. It degrades slowly in this environment, taking 20-30 years to totally dissolve.

In a report by The Recycling Partnership, a single-family home utilizes 17 pounds of polypropylene available per year. This clearly makes the generation rate of PP much higher than natural or pigmented HDPE. According to this, it was estimated that more than 1.6 billion pounds of PP plastic would be recycled. 

But was that the case? No. The reason being reusing this material does not always make financial sense. Polypropylene recycling is complex and costly, and it is often difficult to remove the odor of the product that this plastic contained in its first life. Furthermore, recycled PP is frequently turned out to be black or gray, rendering it unsuitable for packaging applications. As a result, PP is commonly found in plastic lumber, park benches, auto parts, speed bumps, and other industrial applications.

Talking about the difficulties faced while recycling plastics leads us to the plastics that are or cannot be recycled.


What Plastics Are NOT Recyclable?

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): PVC is one of the most frequently used plastics on the planet. The high chlorine content in raw PVC and the high quantities of toxic chemicals applied to the polymer to attain the necessary material quality are important issues in PVC recycling. As a result, before recycling, PVC must be separated from other polymers. PVC goods have an average lifespan of 30 years, with some lasting 50 years or more. This means that more PVC items are nearing the end of their useful life and ending up in the waste stream, and the volume is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years.

It is not that PVC cannot be recycled, but the often collected PVC is very difficult to recycle. Still, if it is being recycled, it is currently done by mechanical or feedstock recycling. Because there is no chemical reaction involved in mechanical recycling, the recyclate keeps its original composition. This presents a recycling difficulty because PVC products include varying additives depending on their application.

Do you know that this not-so recyclable plastic is used for flooring, roofing, siding; also used in the making of tents, shower curtains, protective clothes, and even plumbing pipes?

  • Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE): We are all familiar with the oh-so infamous plastic bags which are provided by almost every grocery store or other retailer. It is not that it cannot be recycled but it is not recycled, neither is it majorly encouraged because LDPE is a very cheap and low quality plastic, hence, making the recycling process not with when seen from a financial point of view. As a result, certain municipalities refuse to accept this plastic in curbside recycling bins.

Even if it is recycled, it can be transformed into packaging films and bin liners. But if not seen from the monetary aspect also, the process of recycling this plastic is not easy. The most collected entity made of this plastic is the plastic bags, and they tend to get entangled in the recycling machinery which risks and endangers the complete procedure of recycling. 

This is the core reason why it is advisable to avoid the use of plastic bags and carry a cloth or jute bag along while going out shopping. 

  • Polystyrene (PS): Polystyrene is a kind of polymer. It is derived from styrene polymer, which is a synthetic material. It is also one of the most common forms of plastic. Because of its popularity, it is easy for it to generate a large amount of garbage.

Before you can reprocess this plastic substance, you'll need more advanced technologies. And it is not easily accessible to the majority of centers. As a result, the majority of recycling centers refuse to take this plastic.

This, however, does not apply to expanded polystyrene. Generally, all varieties of expanded polystyrene can be recycled. Expanded PolyStyrene or EPS is a white foam plastic substance made from solid polystyrene beads. It is generally used for packing, insulation, and other purposes.

Polystyrene degradation necessitates a large amount of light and heat. Our environment, on the other hand, does not create as much heat as it requires. As a result, polystyrene decomposition can take up to 500 years. It may not disintegrate at all in rare circumstances.

So it can be concluded that the plastics that are favorable for recycling are PET plastic and HDPE plastic which are called the #1 and #2 plastics respectively. If you are not using the mentioned plastics, it is advised to use those plastics responsibly and wisely.

In this alarming situation, we should understand that our mother earth is already suffering a lot and we should not suffocate her more by disposing of such non-biodegradable waste more and more every day. 

It’s time we become aware of environmentally cautious brands and join hands with them. 

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