What kind of plastic can be recycled?

December 21, 2023

How much plastic packaging do you get through on a daily basis? How much of it can be recycled? In this article we are going to look at which types of plastic can be recycled and which can’t. Read on to learn how to tell them apart and how you can make a difference.

Plastic has had a huge impact on our daily lives by providing solutions ranging from packaging that makes food last longer to plastic machine parts. Nevertheless, many types of plastic can only be used once; they cannot be recycled. This has a huge impact on the environment, which is why raising awareness and providing information about which types of plastic can be recycled are essential steps towards a circular model based on sustainability.

CAN ALL PLASTIC BE RECYCLED?

When thinking about recycling, it’s important to remember there are different types of plastic. Most of these are made from compounds based on oil, natural gas or coal. In order to categorise them, the Society of the Plastics Industry created the Resin Identification Code (RIC) system in 1988, identifying seven types of plastic that could be sorted and recycled. According to this system, plastics are classified by the manufacturing process and the type of polymer used in the packaging or product.

While the process is simple for end consumers – they only need to put the plastic in the yellow bin –, the sorting process at the recycling plant is more complicated. When the plastic has been sorted by type, the packaging that can be recycled is ground into pellets and washed at the recycling plant before being turned back into packaging.

Luckily, consumers today are more aware of their role in this process. Government bodies are also creating awareness campaigns to increase recycling rates, even using competitions to see which municipalities are recycling the most.

PLASTIC THAT CAN BE RECYCLED

The main types of plastic that can be recycled are listed below.

POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE: A KEY MATERIAL IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY

Also known as PET, this is a plastic polymer that can be used to make different types of packaging through processes such as extrusion and thermoforming. It is one of the toughest types of plastic on the market, as well as one of the most rigid thermoplastics. Together with its transparency, these characteristics mean it is frequently used to make food trays and drinks containers, among other things.

Furthermore, it fosters the circular economy in the food industry as it is 100% recyclable for food use.

HIGH-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (HDPE)

This is a thermoplastic polymer that is very tough and rigid. It is resistant to impact, high temperatures, solvents and even corrosive products, which makes it one of the most popular materials on the market. It is commonly used for rigid bottles for cleaning products.

LOW-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (LDPE)

Low-density polyethylene differs from HDPE in its molecular density, which is lower. This density makes the material very flexible, without losing its resistance to impact and chemical substances. All this makes it ideal for the production of transparent film. It is also reused after recycling to manufacture rubbish bags, for example.

Furthermore, LDPE differs from HDPE in the amount of plastic used in packaging – LDPE uses much less.

POLYPROPYLENE (PP): ONE OF THE BEST PLASTICS FOR RECYCLING

PP is perhaps one of the most versatile types of plastic. It is easy to mould and dye, and is highly resistant to bending, wear and chemical products. Its characteristics mean it is commonly used to make sauce bottles and bottle caps, as well as containers for medical and veterinary use. After the recycling process, it can be used to make brushes, trays and battery cables, among others.

SP GROUP AND SUSTAINABILITY

At SPG we believe that it is possible to achieve sustainability and a circular economy by creating environmentally friendly packaging. We are committed to recycling and a continuous process of innovation in order to develop new materials that have less impact on the environment.

This is why we are striving to incorporate recycled materials into our products and to make them recyclable. The result is more sustainable materials, such as rPET, and recyclable monomaterials, like PE ECO, PE HB ECO and PP HB ECO.

We have also optimised our production processes in order to reduce waste and be able to reuse the materials during the process. Our aim is to create sustainable packaging that meets the highest quality standards. If you would like to know more about our commitment to sustainability, visit our website.


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