Plastic. Possibly the most questionable material when it comes to recycling.
With the crack down on plastic straws, China banning the importation of 20 kinds of foreign waste and Guna Yala becoming a trending topic across social media, we’re breaking down 3 things you may not have known about Plastic and Recycling.
Not ALL plastic is recyclable
The plastic bag charge introduced by the government late last year was done for a big reason, and so is the introduction of Starbucks new ‘straw less’ cups and the boycott of straws. Both Plastic Bags and Plastic Straws are NOT recyclable.
Not all recyclers accept all types of plastic. Whilst some accept coffee cups and computer keyboards, the majority of recycling programs don’t accept them due to the material used.
For the majority, it is difficult to recycle coffee cups as it’s almost impossible to separate the plastic from the paper. Along with this, many plastic materials such as flexible pouches and black microwavable trays will require new technology before we are able to recycle the material effectively.
Just because it has a recycling logo on it, doesn’t mean it actually gets recycled. This means that some plastic still goes to landfill, some is incinerated, and some shipped abroad for recycling. You may see an increase in businesses moving to different types of plastic packaging, including fossil-based or bio-based materials. However, just because a plastic is made from bio-based sources, does not automatically mean it will biodegrade.
For a business it’s important to think before purchasing plastic. From simply providing staff with reusable mugs and bottles to contacting suppliers to see what they are doing to reduce plastic waste (or changing suppliers if need be).
We’ve a full blog on the different steps a business can take to reduce their plastic use
You can’t Recycle Dirty Plastic
In order for plastics to be transformed into recycled goods, they must be of decent quality, meaning ANY plastic material with food residue on or in it CANNOT be recycled.
Wash first, then recycle.
Recycled materials must be able to compete with virgin materials in the market, so quality matters. With China banning the importation of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste in 2017 due to poor quality control, it’s surprising this point isn’t widely known.
The majority of the time, a ‘dirty’ recyclable thrown into a recycling bin doesn’t even have the chance to end up at the recycling factory. It is determined either too troublesome to clean or not capable of generating income from and sent to landfill.
Rinse out and wash your plastics before you recycle them. Clear ALL food residuals to guarantee they have a shot of being recycled.
At DJB Recycling, we are always trying to improve the quality of our recyclables. Every bale of material that comes into our depot is split, checked for contamination, then re-baled.
Recycling plastic downgrades its Quality
Plastics are simply polymers, long chains of atoms arranged in repeating units often much longer than those found in nature. This results in the quality of many plastics downgrading through continued use, as a result produce less valuable products.
Every time plastic is recycled, the polymer chain shrinks, and therefore its quality decreases. A critical challenge for the recycling industry is that only 30%-40% of scrap plastic is recovered for reuse or recycling. This is due to a piece of plastic only having the ability to be recycled about 2-3 times before its quality decreases to the point where it can no longer be used.
Adding to this, every time plastic is recycled, additional ‘new’ material is added to help to ‘upgrade’ the quality of the product.
Whilst we may make a living on recycling products, we’d like to stress that recycling should be the last option. Instead we should first record, reduce, replace, refuse, refill, rethink and reuse.