Plastic makes up a large part of the municipal solid waste stream. While most plastic is found in containers and packaging, plastic can also be used in appliances, furniture, medical devices, and office supplies.
Like other types of recycling, plastic recycling conserves energy, reduces waste sent to landfills, and enables more cost efficient production of new plastic products. Millions of tons of plastic are produced annually. If disposed in landfills, plastic bottles take over 500 years to decompose.
Plastic Recycling Process
At the processing facility, plastics are sorted by type, baled, and shipped to another facility. Here, plastics are cleaned and ground into flakes. Contaminants are then removed from the flakes using a flotation tank. The remaining flakes are melted and made into pellets, which are shipped to be re-made into a new product.
Resin Identification Codes
Each plastic product is given a resin identification code, which is used to determine one type of plastic from another. In many areas, collectors will only accept certain types of plastic. The numbers below signify the following types of resin.
1. PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) – Water and soda bottles, peanut butter jars, salad dressing, and other narrow neck containers are made with PET. PET is a tough plastic and shatter-resistant. After recycling, PET recyclables become t-shirts, insulation, or tennis balls.
2. HDPE (High-density polyethylene) – A flexible and often translucent plastic, HDPE is used for milk and water jugs, butter tubs, medicine bottles, and detergent bottles. Recycled HDPE is used to manufacture plastic lumber, trashcans, toys, and buckets.
3. PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) – Because of its resistance to chemicals, vinyl composes shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, and salad dressing. Processed and recycled vinyl can become floor mats, irrigation pipes, hoses, or electrical cord wrapping.
4. LDPE (Low density polyethylene) – Flexible and strong, LDPE is used for food storage containers, dry cleaning bags, bread bags, and grocery bags. LDPE can be used in the production of new grocery bags, garbage liners, or even lawn furniture.
5. PP (Polypropylene) – Chemical and heat resistant, PP can be found in medicine bottles, reusable plastic cups, yogurt containers, and nursery pots. PP can be recycled into lawn mower wheels, ice scrapers, paint buckets, or fibers for blanket and coat filler.
6. PS (Polystyrene) – PS appears brittle and foam-like and is found in packing materials, disposable hot cups, and meat packing trays. These items can be recycled to CD cases, rulers, insulation, or food service trays.
7. Other – Products marked with this code are usually comprised of a several types of plastics. Though recycling may be difficult due to the inability to separate the plastics from one another, other plastics could be recycled into pens, concrete supports, or ice scrapers.
plastics vary among different areas, so check with your local
collector or recycler for specific guidelines.
bags – Because of handling, collectors may not accept these
local grocers themselves collect used plastic bags for
Containers that held motor oil, pesticides, or other hazardous materials will not be accepted.
Lids may not be accepted curbside due to their small size, which makes sorting difficult.
Other questionable items include:
Food trays from
delis, snack foods, or microwaveable meals -
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