Recycling of almost all plastics is possible. However, technical, economic, and logistical factors influence how much they are recycled. Material such as plastic sheets are a limited and vital resource, so the most frequent aim after their first usage is to be recycled into a new product.
Over the UK, almost all local authorities provide plastics recycling pickup. This is ‘post-consumer’ plastic packaging waste, which is sent to the recycling industry. For at least the last 25 years, the quantity that was collected and recycled has grown each year.
Plastic may be separated into various polymer types after it has been collected and sent to a recycling facility. After being shredded (and impurities like newspaper are removed), it is then melted back into polymer pellets. In order to be recycled, these pellets are transported to a recycling plant. They’re then sold and used in new goods. Recycling and other recovery processes benefit the construction, manufacturing, and retail sectors by lowering environmental effects as well as saving money.
Recycling rates in the United Kingdom have improved a lot in recent years and are continuing to rise. In 2000, for example, only 13,000 tons of plastic bottles were recycled; now, the UK recycles close to 380,000 tonnes each year. The following figures are for the United Kingdom.
- 86% of plastic packaging is recovered
- 77% of plastic drink bottles are recycled
- 50% of plastic packaging is recycled
- 78% of post-consumer plastic is recovered
- 59% of all plastic bottles are collected for recycling
- 32% of all plastic is recycled
It is widely accepted as a key approach to reducing costs and environmental impact, particularly in the building, manufacturing, and retail sectors. The recyclability of plastic, which is also one of its primary advantages as an extremely resource-saving material, is another major selling point. Because used plastic should be viewed as a precious resource rather than “waste,”
Recycling is technically possible for any type of plastic. However, because of economic and logistical variables, the percentage of recycling varies. PET and HDPE are the most widely recycled polymers, used to make soft drink bottles and milk bottles, respectively. Most durable plastics, including clear and coloured polystyrene, can also be recycled. Traditional recycling is referred to as “mechanical recycling,” which causes the plastic to physically break down but not the chemical structure. Chemical recycling is a distinct technique that transforms polymers into new ones. It has only recently been used, however, it does alter the chemical structure of the plastic. This technique allows for the mixing of all types of plastics, even those classified as food-grade packaging, to be recycled.
The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) informs customers about whether a plastic good may be recycled. This information is useful for retailers and brand owners to inform the public on what can and cannot be recycled.
Because it has no alternative at this time, the United Kingdom exports some of its plastic for recycling. The UK does not have the capacity to recycle all of the materials it generates. For a long time, the BPFs has been demanding more investment in our domestic recycling infrastructure. It is true that the UK should be able to recycle all of its own waste, but for the time being there will continue to be a mixture between recyclable materials within the UK and sending it abroad to be recycled.
There is no simple solution to this question. It varies depending on the type of plastic, how it is recycled, and what it is being recycled for. Polymers do break down somewhat during recycling – but the small degradation can be offset by adding precise quantities of ‘virgin’ (new) plastic.