How To Properly Recycle Plastics

We hear a lot about the importance of recycling.  Landfills are filling up, and when we throw recyclable items in the trash we are contributing to the landfill problem.  Many homes and businesses make a point to try to recycle items that have the ability to be recycled, such as cardboard, aluminum, paper and plastic.  However, many people don’t know how to properly recycle plastic and may be causing more harm than good when they incorrectly recycle.

Types of Plastic

There are seven categories of plastics, although there are actually many more types of plastics.  The plastics that don’t fit in one of the first six categories are lumped into category 7.  Of these seven categories, only the first two are commonly recycled.  Polyethylene Terephtalate (PET) is any plastic with the number 1 on it and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is any plastic with the number 2 on it.  Examples of these plastics are beverage bottles and detergent bottles. 

Although these two are the most common and easily recycled, other types may be able to be recycled depending on your towns recycling facilities.

Preparing to Recycle Plastic

  1. Know what is accepted at your recycling facility. Recycling takes more preparation than simply tossing an item in the recycling bin.  The first thing you need to do when preparing to recycle plastic is to know what type of plastics your recycling facility will accept.  Your local recycling program wants you to recycle, so they make this information easy to find by passing out flyers or putting it up online. 
  2. Sort your plastics.  After you know what types of plastics they can accept, start paying attention to the numbers on your plastics.  Any types of plastics that aren’t accepted by your recycling center should be thrown in the trash.  If your recycling company requires you to sort your plastics, make sure that you are sorting them properly. 
  3. Clean your plastics.  Before tossing your plastics into the recycling bin, you must rinse them out to make sure that all traces of contaminants are removed. 

The Consequence of Improper Plastic Recycling

When you don’t recycle your plastics properly, your recycling efforts are for nothing.  Including plastics your facility can’t recycle, failing to clean items, or including trash in your load of recyclables contaminates your entire batch.  This can result in more work at the recycling center or even in the whole batch being rejected and sent to the landfill.

Automatic sorting equipment doesn’t catch everything and there is a possibility contaminants can get through.  This results in lessened durability of the new plastic that is formed.  The new plastic is then less useful. 

If you are in doubt about whether a plastic item can be recycled, don’t just throw it in your recycling container and cross your fingers it was the right choice.  When in doubt, throw it out, and don’t risk your entire batch of recyclable items ending up in the landfill.

To learn more, contact a recycling service center like Quantum Resource Recovery