A new life for old plastic


The bottle you use today can be something different in the future.

Plastic gained popularity in the 1960s, but recycling didn’t gain popularity until the  late 1980s.  We’ve all grown up with it, but how exactly is it done?

Plastic recycling is the process of recovering scrap or used plastic and reprocessing it into new products. The plastics can sometimes be a completely different state or look than they were before recycling and it is not an easy process, but it can be very beneficial in keeping the plastic out of landfills.

There are six main steps in plastic recycling. First is the obvious step of collecting the plastics, either directly from homes and businesses or by having people deliver it to designated recycling facilities.

After collecting the plastic, it needs to be sorted. This process is done based on the thickness of the plastics and that can be identified by the symbols often found at the bottom of the containers.

After the sorting is done, the washing process starts. This step is a crucial part of the process since it removes impurities from the plastic. If it is not done thoroughly, it could also ruin a batch of plastic recycling.

After washing the plastics, the containers are shredded into small pieces. When it is broken down, it can be reused as a new product. Breaking it down also helps identify and remove any leftover impurities.

The second to last step is identification and segregation of the plastics. In this step, the plastics go through a couple of testing for their class and density, then it’s followed by air classification which determines the thickness of the plastics.

The last step is compounding and extruding the plastics. In this step, the plastics are melted and turned into pellets and are manufactured to new reusable products. It is not always possible to compound every type of plastics so sometimes, at this final process the plastic is sent to another facility.

For more information, visit rts.com or sciencedirect.com.