What Plastic CANNOT be Recycled?

Everyone is trying their best to recycle plastic products - from private individuals to global businesses, we're starting to recognise the damage plastic pollution is causing to our oceans and the planet as a whole.


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Did you know, there are some items of plastic that cannot be recycled? While British consumers are increasingly keen to recycle their household waste, many people don't grasp the basic rules of recycling, according to the British Science Association.

When we don't get it right, this means a lot of recyclable waste is still going to landfill, the BSA claims. The subject is made more complicated due to inconsistencies among local authorities and their own recycling facilities.

The most common mistakes include simple things, such as putting an empty tissue box in the recycling bin, but failing to remove and separate the plastic insert first, or wrongly believing an empty deodorant aerosol cannot be recycled.

What can we recycle?

In a bid to help householders get it right, industry chiefs have compiled a list of what can and cannot be recycled. The plastic items commonly put into recycling bins that can't actually be recycled include soap pump dispenser tops, non-paper gift wrap, plastic bags, coffee cups, straws, soft plastic packaging (such as baby food or pet food pouches), crisp packets and any shampoo bottles or food containers that haven't been rinsed out.

Other items that CAN be recycled are often thrown away in error. These include empty aerosol cans with a plastic cap, such as deodorant and hairspray cans, empty surface cleaner bottles with a "trigger" spray, empty bleach bottles and envelopes with plastic windows.

Why can't some plastics be recycled?

Certain types of plastic can't be recycled because the recycling facilities aren't equipped to deal with them. Most centres sort recyclable items into different "streams" through a combination of manual and mechanical sorting processes.

Plastic bottles can be separated manually, but there's also a further operation to sort two different types of plastic bottle. This can be done by using an infra-red light, which identifies whether the bottle is made from PET or HDPE. Around 97% of plastic bottles are made from these types of material, including soft drinks, milk, cleaning products and cosmetic bottles.

Tubs, pots and trays are made of a number of different polymers, including PVC and low-density polyethylene, which is a thermoplastic. These types of polymers can't be sorted successfully by some recycling facilities due to the high costs of the equipment.

Even with the equipment, there isn't a viable market yet for these types of plastics. This issue faces all local councils in the UK. The destination of the plastics would still be landfill or incineration if there was no market for the recycled products. In addition, sorting could be less accurate because of the challenges of sorting so many different kinds of plastic. Any cross-contamination would reduce the financial value of the other materials.

Some plastics, such as PTT, are not of the same quality as bottles, therefore they're not as sought-after from a plastic recycling plant's point of view. Items such as yoghurt pots contain at least two types of plastic, comprising the softer body of the pot and the rigid top. These can't be separated, so they are no use for recycling.

Recycling plants estimate that even if they accepted PTT plastics, this would increase the recycling rate by less than 1%, so it isn't worth accepting them, because the associated negative factors outweigh the positives.

Which companies are supporting recycling?

As recycling is gaining popularity due to more people becoming environmentally aware, a number of companies are rising to the challenge by changing their products so they are recyclable.

Sportswear manufacturer Adidas has teamed up with environmental group Parley for the Oceans to produce a range of shoes and apparel made from sustainable materials. The range includes training shoes, which combine performance tech with sustainability.

Each shoe is made with the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles and is produced in colours aimed at resembling the ocean, such as blues and greens. Adidas says it aims to phase recycled plastic into all of its footwear by 2020.

Clothing manufacturer Patagonia makes recycled polyester from plastic drinks bottles, turning trash into fleeces for outdoor wear. It makes recycled polyester fibres from a blend of used drinks bottles and pre-owned apparel, including its own-brand garments.

The recycled material produces everything from T-shirts to winter weather clothing. Patagonia also sells the Guppyfriend washing bag that reduces the amount of synthetic microfibres escaping into our rivers and oceans through the washing machine.

Solent Plastics promotes the responsible use of sustainable products and recycling to preserve our planet for future generations. We stock our own range of recycled plastic containers made from recycled polypropylene. We also sell recycling waste bins to help our customers manage their own recycling initiatives.

Contact us today on 01794 514478 for further information.