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How to Recycle Plastic


There are nearly 50 different types of plastic. The most common types are:

  • High-density polyethylene or HDPE – it has a great strength-to-density ratio and is mainly used in the creation of opaque bottles or corrosion resistant pipes.
  • Polyethylene terephthalate or PET – most commonly used in the clothing industry. In addition, most food and liquid containers are made from PET.
  • Polyvinyl chloride or PVC – the third most produced plastic. It’s created from two materials: chlorine and carbon.

How to Recycle Plastic at Home

Bags with Plastic Bottles for RecyclingMany of the common plastic items we use in our everyday lives are recyclable. Even though some of them (like plastic bottles, for example) require virgin plastic to be made, lots of other items can be made with recycled plastic. You can help the recycling process. Here’s how to recycle plastic at home.

  1. Learn the difference between recyclable and non-recyclable plastic. Recyclable plastic items have an insignia with a number that shows what type of plastic it is.
  2. Contact your closest recycling facility. This is a necessary second step, because while most centres are keen on accepting almost any type of recycling material, some are prone to declining certain items.
  3. Sort the plastic items you wish to recycle by type. Now that you know what type of plastic your closest recycling centre is willing to accept, it’s time to sort the items by type. This would immensely assist in the endeavour.
  4. Give the plastic items a quick rinse. Odds are most of the items you wish to recycle will be associated with food, drink, or other substances that influence the recycling process of the plastic. For this reason, give them a quick rinse before you head them off to the recycling centre.
  5. Remove the labels. Some facilities have no problem doing that, themselves, but others do, so you might as well remove them just to be on the safe side. If you don’t feel like it, you can always ask before the collection.
  6. Remove all caps and other fragments that might potentially ruin the batch. Even though most caps are recyclable, they are often made from different materials than bottles, which is why they should be separated, along with other fragments that might ruin the process.
  7. Ensure the plastic will reach the recycling centre. There are several ways you can do that. You can leave it in a kerbside box or a bin and hope that it will get recycled. A more viable alternative is depositing it in a recycling bank. But the surest way to guarantee that it makes it to the recycling centre is getting it there, yourself.

How Is Plastic Recycled?

The plastic is collected and then sorted at your local recycling facility. Next, it’s shredded down into smaller fragments, and washed to remove small impurities. Once the material is dry it’s melted and formed into pellets. Recycling plastic can be difficult due to the risk of contamination from dyes, labels, and other bits of debris.

Did You Know?

  • Fashion products like fleece jackets could be made using recycled materials recovered from plastic bottles.
  • 25,000 plastic bottles weigh only one ton.
  • 1.5 tons of carbon be saved by recycling just one ton of plastic bottles.
  • More than 13 billion plastic bags are manufactured every year. That’s three hundred bags per individual.

The Environmental Impact

The life cycle of plastic can be extended if it’s reused and recycled correctly. Used plastic bottles can be remade into new ones, and consequently the need to find raw materials is reduced. By recycling more plastic, we’ll preserve non-renewable fossil fuels, decrease energy consumption, reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, and decrease the amount of solid waste sent to landfills.

Problems and issues

The UK’s recycling facilities are advanced but there are still types of plastic which they cannot take. For example, the plastic used in margarine tubs and yoghurt pots requires new technology which is not currently available in the UK. As a result, this plastic must be sent to a landfill or transported to another country where it can be recycled.


Q: Are plastic bottle caps recyclable too?

A: Yes. However, the bottle and the cap are made from different types of plastic. Therefore, they must be recycled separately.

Q: How do I recycle my plastic bottle?

A: Firstly, check the bottom of the bottle for a number. This number will tell you what type of plastic it’s made of. Secondly, empty and rinse the bottle. Thirdly, separate the cap from the bottle and put them in the appropriate recycling bins at a drop-off centre.

Q: What happens after I’ve placed my bottle in a recycling bin?

A: A team of collectors will transport the bottle to a recycling facility. Then, it will be shredded, bathed, melted, and transformed into pellets, which are sold to bottle manufacturers.

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