What Plastics to Recycle and How
In today’s plastic-dependent society, recycling is more important than ever. Rather than allowing plastic to end up in landfill — where it takes decades to degrade, if ever — the goal is to reduce and reuse plastic, thus limiting the need for new plastic to be produced. As a responsible UK citizen, you may wonder what types of plastic can be recycled in your area and how to do so. Use the information here as a guide.
What are the 7 Types of Post-Consumer Plastics?
In 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry created the Resin Identification Code (RIC) to label post-consumer plastics based on their composition and recyclability. The RIC is the number enclosed within the familiar recycling symbol (three arrows arranged in a triangle). Today, the RIC is recognized as the worldwide standard plastic classification. Here’s a quick breakdown of the seven types of post-consumer plastic:
1. Polyethene terephthalate (PET) – disposable water bottles and food packaging
2. High-density polyethene (HDPE) – milk jugs and shampoo bottles
3. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – rigid plastics like pipes and window frames
4. Low-density polyethene (LDPE) – aluminium can six-pack rings, disposable grocery bags and thin plastic films
5. Polypropylene (PP) – reusable food containers, straws, hangers, car parts and disposable nappies
6. Polystyrene (PS) – egg cartons, beverage cups and disposable plates
7. Polycarbonates (PC) and other plastics – eyeglass lenses, mobile phone parts, baby bottles and compact discs
What Plastics Can be Recycled?
Plastic recyclability depends largely on the product’s chemical makeup. For instance, thermoset plastics contain polymers that form irreversible chemical bonds during manufacturing, so they cannot be recycled. Thermoplastics, on the other hand, can be melted and remoulded. Finances also affect the feasibility of recycling certain plastics. Here’s a closer look at what plastics can and cannot be recycled:
1. PET is the most widely recycled plastic in the world. It is often melted and reused for its original purpose, but PET also has the unique ability to be spun into yarn. This means your old water bottles can someday become a stylish shirt, backpack or area rug.
2. HDPE is accepted at most recycling centres. The most common uses for recycled HDPE include non-food application bottles and film packaging. This plastic can also be “downcycled” into tables, benches, roadside curbs and other durable plastic products.
3. PVC is not recyclable in most markets. Still, it remains the third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, praised for its lightness, durability and ease of production.
4. LDPE can technically be recycled, but that doesn’t mean it always is. After all, thin disposable films, bags and wrapping are notorious for clogging recycling machinery when collected with larger, more rigid recyclable plastics. Plus, LDPE is very cheap to produce, meaning many providers don’t find it financially viable to recycle it. As a result, most municipalities don’t accept RIC 4 plastics in curbside bins. Instead, you can only recycle them in certain places, such as specifically labelled bins at the supermarket.
5. PP is recyclable, but a large percentage of it ends up in landfills. This sad truth comes down to finances again. After all, polypropylene is difficult and expensive to recycle, and in many cases, it ends up a dull grey or black. For this reason, recycled PP is usually reserved for auto parts, speed bumps, park benches and other industrial applications.
6. PS is not recyclable. Also known by its brand name, Styrofoam, polystyrene is the worst type of plastic for the environment. It’s highly flammable, leaches harmful chemicals when heated, easily blows on the wind and is non-biodegradable.
7. PC and other plastics are not recyclable. Many contain harmful bisphenol A (BPA), a compound on the list of environmentally hazardous chemicals. Polycarbonates do not decompose, meaning the BPA in landfills eventually finds its way into the soil and nearby bodies of water, further contributing to the earth’s pollution.
As long as your recycling provider allows it, you can feel free to mix different plastics in one recycling bin. However, it’s important to only include the RIC categories your recycling centre accepts.
Recycling Plastic with Budget Waste Management
Based on the outskirts of the Cotswolds and Vale of Evesham, Budget Waste Management harbours a relationship with farmers and other agricultural workers to help these industries recycle responsibly. We sort and bale all recyclable types of plastic onsite, leading to shipping within the UK and Europe.
In addition to plastic recycling, we also process paper and cardboard, metal, wood, and other materials. We currently recycle over 95% of the “waste” brought to our site, and our goal is to increase this to 100% in the near future! For more information about the materials we recycle or to discuss your plastic recycling needs, please contact our team on 01386 841181 today.