Did you know that plastic can be recycled and turned into new products? Recycling plastic is one way we can help preserve our environment and reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. Recycling plastic is not as difficult as it may seem, and can be done with a few simple steps.

What is recycling and why should we do it?

Recycling is the process of turning plastic waste into new materials or products. Recycling can benefit both the environment and our economy by reducing our consumption of new raw materials, conserving natural resources, reducing energy usage, decreasing air pollution, cutting greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, and creating green jobs.

Recycling one ton of plastic bottles can conserve enough energy to power a house for almost three weeks. Recycling one million tons of plastic can save more than five billion gallons of oil, which is enough to heat and cool over 200,000 homes for an entire year. Recycling plastics also generates new products that are made with less energy than making them from scratch. Recycled plastic bottles are used in the production of carpets, fleece jackets, shipping pallets, picnic tables and benches, park benches, storage bins, next-generation traffic cones, and construction materials like insulation boards.

You don’t need special equipment or training to recycle plastics at home; all you need is some time and effort! Plastic recycling starts by sorting your plastics. Recycling bins come in a variety of shapes and sizes, you can even use a milk jug with the cap on to collect small pieces of plastic recycling throughout your home. You can buy or make your own recycling bin.

Arts and crafts supplies are often made from recycled plastics. Recycle old toys as new ones for someone else! Plastic packaging is another great place to start collecting recyclables. Use it to collect recyclable plastics like bottles and bags before they go to the landfill by simply throwing them into the recycling bin when you get home from shopping. Recycling is not just about litter and trash; many recyclable products come from other types of litter and trash that we throw away every day!

How to recycle plastic

To get started, separate your recyclables into different groups. Recycling plastic is not as difficult as it may seem, and can be done with a few simple steps.

  • Plastic bottles
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic packaging  (e.g., food wrappers)
  • Personal care product containers (e.g., shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles)

Gather these types of plastics together in one area to sort later. You can also collect other types of recycling that are not made from plastic such as newspapers, aluminium cans, glass jars/bottles, cardboard boxes, office paper, junk mail, etc . Be mindful of what you place in the recycling bin at home! Recycling should never include materials that are not recyclable, such as Bubble Wrap or Styrofoam.

When you have a group of plastics together, sort them into one of the following categories:

  • Recyclable – These can be recycled curbside with your regular collection or at many drop-off centers .  Plastics in this category include bottles and jugs made from HDPE (#2), PETE, (#1), or polypropylene (#5). Deciding what type of plastic something is made from usually just involves looking at the number inside the chasing arrows triangle on the bottom or side of item. There are many household items that can be recycled such as empty food jars (such as spaghetti sauce jars), empty peanut butter jars, and laundry detergent bottles.
  • Recyclable, but not curbside – These plastics can usually be recycled at a drop-off centre or recycling location.  Plastics in this category include food trays, some types of plastic buckets, and trash/shower water bags. To learn more about what is accepted in your area for drop-off recycling check with your local municipality or county government website.
  • Recyclable by a commercial program – These plastics can usually be recycled through a paid service. Recycling these products depends on the end market demand for the product rather than whether it is recyclable. Some examples of recyclables that fall into this category are prescription pill bottles, clear plastic bags, film plastics (like snack baggies), and ketchup/mustard bottles. Recyclers of these types of recycling often turn them into new products such as shipping pallets or carpet fibres.
  • Recyclable, but not commercially – These cannot currently be recycled through a paid service. This is usually because there is no demand for the product to make the recycling program profitable for companies that recycle it. Quite often, recyclables in this category are bubble-wrapped or contain some other contaminant making them difficult to sort properly at recycling facilities. Some examples of recyclables that fall into this category are yogurt cups, frozen food boxes with Styrofoam linings, and chip bags.
  • Recyclable after a few tricks – These plastics can be recycled with a few simple household items. Many recyclables that fall into this category typically have a plastic cap or mixed material on them making them difficult to sort properly at recycling facilities. Some examples of recyclables that fall into this category include softdrink bottles, vinegar bottles, spray bottles, and ketchup bottles. Recycling these types of plastics often requires cleaning out contents first and checking with your local recycling center for specific guidelines .

How to recycle other materials at home

This is a topic that will require a much larger blog to cover. However, recycling other materials such as newspaper, aluminium cans, cardboard boxes, glass jars/bottles, etc. will follow the same general steps as those above for recycling plastics at home. Set out your paper recycling bin on collection day and your curbside recycling container with aluminium items on collection day. Recycling cardboard is a simple process of flattening or breaking down boxes to make them easier to store and recycle. Recycling glass is also a fairly easy process of rinsing out containers first before placing in your curbside recycling container .

Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash

How do I know what plastics are recyclable?

Plastics with recycling codes from #1-#7 does not determine whether that plastic is recyclable yet determines the type of plastic. However, the lower numbers are usually considered recyclable. Plastic product packaging often includes the plastic recycling code on it somewhere. You can also visit www.plasticfilmrecycling.org for information about recycling codes and which products they apply to. In Australia we are seeing more and more packaging including direct recycling tips that include which part of the product should be recycled or put in landfill.

The benefits of recycling plastics

There are three major benefits of recycling plastics:

  1. Recycled products help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve energy. When you recycle a plastic product, it is the equivalent to saving the oil that would have been used if that same product were manufactured from fresh materials .
  2. Recycling one ton of plastic can conserve up to 3 cubic yards of landfill space and save the cost of having to purchase new raw materials for manufacturing .
  3. Recycling plastics helps improve overall environmental quality by reducing pollutants in our water and soil caused by leaching and runoff from landfills (which can harm trees/plants, wildlife, etc.). Recycling one ton of plastic helps reduce the number of hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere by more than 400 pounds.

These are only the major benefits of recycling plastics, however, there are more benefits to recycling in general. Recycling is a great habit for everyone to get into, and with a little bit of practice, it becomes easy!

Recycling Plastic myths busted

Myth #1: Recycling is dirty and dingy

Recycling can be a challenge for many people, but it doesn’t mean it has to be a dirty or dingy process. Recycling plastics sometimes may require cleaning out containers first before recycling them, but if you start recycling plastics at home on a regular basis, you’ll get the hang of it! Also, note that not all communities have curbside collection services to recycle your frequently used recyclables. Recycling centres are almost always found in larger cities near busier intersections or destinations such as malls/shopping areas. These types of locations are great because they attract individuals from all demographics without having to drive too far.

Myth #2: Recycling is challenging to understand

Recycling plastics at home can be easy once you get the hang of it. Recycling other materials such as paper, aluminum, etc. are also fairly simple processes that require minimal effort. Recycling centers are often found near key busier areas making them great for everyone to use! Myth

#3: Recycling doesn’t help conserve energy

Recycling one ton of plastic helps save the equivalent of 400 pounds in oil consumption. Recycled products also help reduce landfill space and save money on buying new raw materials for manufacturing. Recycled plastics also reduce harmful pollutants in our water & soil caused by leaching and runoff from landfills because there’s less demand for new material to make products. Recycling also reduces greenhouse gases by reducing the amount of hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere .

Myth #4: Recycling takes up too much space in landfills

Recycling plastics helps conserve landfill space because it’s one way we can help reduce the amount of plastic products that go into our landfills. Recycled products take up less space than if they were processed out of virgin materials, giving more room for new recyclables to be placed. Recycled plastics also help improve environmental quality by reducing pollutants that leach and runoff from landfills harming trees/plants, wildlife etc. Recycling one ton of recycled plastic conserves 3 cubic yards of landfill space .

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Recycling tips for everyday life

  1. Recycling plastics at home can be a challenge for many, but the process only becomes easier depending on how often you recycle. Recycle plastics at home twice a week to get a good rhythm going and find what works best for you .
  2. If recycling plastic containers, make sure that all product labels are removed from recycled products before placing them into your recycling bin or bag . This will help improve the quality of recyclable materials and better prepare them for processing!
  3. Make it easy on yourself by always having a recycle bin next to your trash can to collect recyclables as they accumulate so you don’t have to worry about sorting later! Recycle bins also provide easy access anytime and anywhere without driving to the nearest recycling centre. Recycle bins are also convenient for apartment/home dwellers who don’t have curbside service or access to a recycling centre nearby. Recycle bins can be purchased online or at a local retailer near you.
  4. Help others! By helping other people on their recycling journey you are going to consistently learn more about recycling. Recycling can be a small inconvenience for you, but helping others by teaching them how to recycle is going to benefit everyone.

Conclusion

So, the next time you’re at the grocery store and reach for that gallon of milk, think about how you can recycle the plastic jug when you’re done. It takes a little effort but it’s worth it to keep those bottles out of our landfills and oceans. And if you still have some questions about recycling plastic or just want to learn more, be sure to check out our other articles on the subject. Now it’s your turn – tell us what you think in the comments below and share this article with your friends and family. Let’s work together to create a cleaner, healthier planet for future generations!