Green EducationHow Does a Business Recycle Plastic?
re·cy·cle – /rēˈsīk(ə)l/ – (v) to convert waste into reusable material, return a material to a previous stage in a cyclic process, to use again.
Ever wonder what the numbered triangles on your microwave dinners mean? Or if you can recycle the plastic on your dry cleaning or an old DVD case? From our cars, food packaging, clothing, medical devices, buildings, to so much more, plastic composes much of our daily lives. While plastics provide us with necessities in life, this necessity also litters our streets, clogs our water and harms our environment. Yet nearly all plastics can be easily recycled and manufactured into something useful once again!
How can we begin to make sense of all the different plastics and what can be done with them? Greenpath Enterprises can answer those questions as well as provide you with personal and industry scale solutions to your plastic recycling needs. Below is a summary of plastic groups, what they’re found in, how they’re recycled and into what products they’re reclaimed.
Number 1 Plastics
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
You will most commonly find PET plastics in the form of single-use bottle beverages like sodas and water bottles because it is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. PET plastics posses a low risk of leaching breakdown products. Interestingly, recycling rates of this type remain low (around 20%), though demand for this material by manufacturers is constant.
Found in: bottles (such as soft drinks, water, and beer); mouth wash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and cooking oil containers; oven-safe food trays.
Recycling: curbside recycling programs and beverage and water bottling plants.
Reclaimed as: more bottles, new food-grade packaging, Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, and strapping.
Number 2 Plastics
HDPE (high density polyethylene)
HDPE is a highly versatile plastic made from petroleum that gets particular use in packaging. The types of packaging that HDPE is recycled into doesn’t only encompass the food industry but also piping and plumbing, geo sciences and furniture. It carries a low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into various goods.
Found in: Milk jugs and juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaning bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil containers; butter and yogurt tubs; and some cereal box liners.
Recycling: curbside recycling programs, bag manufacturing plants, and milk and water bottlers.
Reclaimed as: grocery and trash bags, laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, floor tile, drainage pipes, imitation lumber, benches, doghouses, tables, fencing and pens.
Number 3 Plastics
V (Vinyl) or PVC
Vinyl and PVC plastics come in two forms: rigid and flexible. Rigid PVC is most commonly used in construction materials and cards such as ATM or membership cards. Its softer format is often used in plumbing, electrical cable insulation, signage, inflatable products, and applications where it is substituted for rubber.
Found in: window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows and piping.
Recycling: rarely is this type of plastic recycled after use for consumer use, but most manufacturing waste of this type can be recycled if kept clean.
Reclaimed as: flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats, decks, paneling, mud flaps, and gutters.
Number 4 Plastics
LDPE (low density polyethylene)
LDPE is a highly flexible plastic which is used in containers, dispensing bottles, tubing, bags and occasionally laboratory equipment. It can be found in numerous areas of our lives from what we wear to the furniture we sit on.
Found in: dry cleaning bags, shopping and tote bags, clothing, furniture, carpet, squeezable bottles, and some frozen food containers.
Recycling: of the types of Number 4 plastics, trashcan liners and cans, compost bins, floor tiles, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, and landscape ties are placed in curbside recycling programs.
Reclaimed as: decks, paneling, mud flaps, gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats.
Number 5 Plastics
PP plastics are one of the more versatile plastics in that its reclaimed form spans objects from textiles, medical and laboratory equipment, audio and automotive components, and more. It is also most commonly used in containers that need to withstand high heat.
Found in: ketchup and syrup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles.
Recycling: most manufacturing and commercial programs recycle Number 5 plastics.
Reclaimed as: signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays.
Number 6 Plastics
PS plastics can be either solid or come in a foam state. Most PS is clear, hard and rigid and has a relatively low melting point. It is one of the most widely used plastics with arguably the highest production scale of all the plastics. While naturally transparent, PS can also be colored with colorants. In its foam form it is often called by its trademark name: Styrofoam!
Found in: disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, CD cases.
Recycling: curbside recycle programs and the most common forms, but also most manufacturing or distribution centers will take them if they are kept clean.
Reclaimed as: insulation, light switch plates, vents, rulers, foam packing, egg cartons, and carry-out containers.
Number 7 Plastics
This category of plastics contains a miscellany of products that don’t fall under any of the previous qualifications. To determine what a Number 7 plastic will be reclaimed as depends on what it previously was and sometimes occupants of this category are combined to make a new product with multi-plastic assets.
Found in: three- and five-gallon water bottles, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon, and even “bullet-proof” materials.
Recycling: traditionally Number 7 plastics are not recycled after consumer use, though recently some curbside programs will take them.
Reclaimed as: as this category covers miscellaneous types of plastics it depends on the original material being recycled, and many plastic resins are grouped here. However, some examples include boot and glove linings, plastic lumber, some bio-degradable plastic products, and sportswear.
Contact us today for your commercial recycling needs.