Recycled Plastic – An Insider’s Look

Recycling plastic is all about recovering waste and scrap plastic so it can be reused into functional products. The goal of recycling is environmental and economical - we want to reduce the high rates of plastic pollution while ensuring plastic production is still sustainable and cost effective to use on a large scale. Plastics are economically and environmentally efficient, lightweight and durable. They can be easily moulded into a seemingly countless range of products for a huge number of applications, from forming part of an automobile to protecting our food. With more than 100 million tons of plastics manufactured globally each year, the reuse, recovery and recycling of plastics is vital.

Which Plastics are Recyclable?

The following plastics can be recycled in provided recycling centers and specified waste recycling bins:
  • PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) - e.g. fruit juice and soft drink bottles
  • HDPE (High-density polyethylene) - e.g. shampoo containers or milk bottles
  • PVC (Plasticised Polyvinyl chloride or polyvinyl chloride) - e.g. cordial, juice or squeeze bottles
The following plastics cannot be recycled at your normal recycling facility:
  • LDPE (Low-density polyethylene)- e.g. bread bags and plastic bags
  • PS (Polystyrene) - e.g. foam hot drink cups, plastic cutlery and containers
  • PP (Polypropylene) - e.g. lunch boxes, takeout food containers, ice cream containers.
The unfortunate thing is that it is possible to recycle all plastics, but it usually dosen’t happen because it is either economically or logistically not feasible. Some councils, mostly in regional areas, accept some or all these plastics in their kerbside recycling services. The REDcycle initiative also allows consumers to recycle soft plastics at supermarkets.

The Plastic Recycling Process

Recycling processes can vary from place to place and in each organisation. The simplest way involves collecting, sorting, shredding, washing, melting and then pelletising collected plastics. It usually starts with a machine automatically sorting plastics and removing contaminants, although this is done by hand in some places. Plastics are then melted down into flakes, pellets or beads, which are then used to make new products. Ongoing innovations in recycling processes and technology are making it easier and more cost effective to recycle plastics. These include recognition software that greatly improves the accuracy of automatic sorting. Other innovations involve finding more applications for recycled polymers. In the UK, PET sheets for thermoforming now contain between 50 to 70 per cent recycled PET. Recycled PET is being used for other surprising purposes as well, such as the creation of carpet fibres.  Some EU countries have made the recycling of rigid packaging like trays, pots and tubs as well as soft plastics feasible.

Challenges in Recycling Plastic

Contamination in recycled waste remains a huge challenge for recycling organisations. Things like soft plastic can’t be picked up by many automatic sorting machines and get tangled up in machinery. With only 20 to 40 per cent of scrap plastic getting recovered for reuse or recycling, it’s a critical challenge to the industry to get closer to a closed loop recycling system.

Sustainable Plastic Packaging in Queensland

Dolphin Plastics & Packaging is a leading plastics manufacturer based in Queensland. We are committed to producing sustainable plastic packaging solutions for organisations in a variety of industries across Queensland and all down the east coast of Australia. To find out more about how we can help you, call Dolphin Plastics & Packaging today on (07) 5610 5278 or contact us online.