Debunking Plastic Recycling Myths: The Truth About Recycling Plastics

Debunking Plastic Recycling Myths: The Truth About Recycling Plastics

When it comes to recycling plastics, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions floating around. Many people are confused about what types of plastics can be recycled, the environmental impact of plastic recycling, and whether recycled plastics are safe for food packaging. In this article, we’ll separate fact from fiction and debunk some of the most common plastic recycling myths.

Myth #1: All plastics can be recycled in our recycling bins

This is one of the biggest myths about plastic recycling. The truth is, not all types of plastics are easily recyclable due to the fact that different plastic types require a customised approach to recycle them properly. Plastics are divided into different categories based on their chemical composition and properties, and some are more difficult to recycle than others. The most commonly recycled plastics are polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which are used for things like soda bottles and milk jugs.
However, other types of plastics, such as polystyrene and certain types of plastic films, are more challenging to recycle due to their properties or lack of recycling infrastructure. There are solutions for these plastics however collaboration across the supply chain is often necessary to have these plastic types recycled and diverted away from landfill. As an example for collaboration, you will often need to check with your local council or supermarkets if they have a collection point for soft plastics. These collection points are a collaboration project between the councils/supermarkets with waste collectors, recyclers and product manufacturers.

Myth #2: Recycling plastics requires more energy than making new plastics

This myth couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, recycling plastics generally requires less energy than manufacturing new plastics from virgin materials. The recycling process involves melting, cleaning, and repelletizing the plastic, which requires less energy compared to the extraction, refining, and polymerization processes required for producing new plastics from raw materials.

Myth #3: Recycled plastics can’t be used for food packaging

Another common misconception is that recycled plastics are unsafe for food packaging. However, this is simply not true. Recycled plastics can absolutely be used for food packaging, as long as they meet stringent safety and quality standards. The recycling process involves thorough cleaning and decontamination to ensure the recycled materials are safe for food contact. In fact, many food and beverage companies are increasingly using recycled plastics for their packaging to reduce their environmental impact.

Myth #4: Biodegradable plastics can be recycled with conventional plastics

This is a potentially harmful myth. Biodegradable plastics, such as those made from plant-based materials like polylactic acid (PLA), are not compatible with traditional plastic recycling processes. They require separate collection and specialized facilities for composting or specific recycling methods. Mixing biodegradable plastics with conventional plastics can contaminate the recycling stream and make the entire batch unusable.
By debunking these common myths, we hope to shed light on the truth about plastic recycling and encourage more people to participate in this important environmental effort. Remember, recycling plastics not only conserves natural resources but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and minimizes the amount of waste sent to landfills or incinerators.

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