Plastic recycling - what really happens to your plastic

March 8, 2021

Recycling seems to be the most sustainable option when it comes to getting rid of rubbish from our homes and workplaces. A lot of people in Australia feel good about themselves when they recycle because they are doing the best for the planet.

However, plastic recycling is not what you think it is on the surface, and not all companies operate in the most sustainable manner.

This is why it is vital for you to do your research before attempting to recycle plastic bottles and packaging because you do not want your good efforts going to waste. 

While there are a lot of options for plastic recycling in Sydney, Ridly rubbish removal is the most sustainable option that practices safe and reliable rubbish removal and recycling.

What's The Problem With Plastic?

One of the biggest issues that waste management companies are having in Australia, and across the world, is the fact that we are now using more single-use plastics than ever before. A lot of this new plastic, such as bottles or plastic bags, will instead just go into landfills. 

Plastic recycling can make the issue worse in some cases, as more people turn to using single-use plastic bottles or other mixed plastics, thinking they can be recycled when this is not always the case.

This is an issue that is only getting worse - last year alone, the United States produced over 35 million tons of plastic waste. Those in Australia are not much better, and this is a global issue that needs to be tackled.

While initiatives such as charging for plastic bags have seen some success, it is not enough, especially not for major cities such as Sydney, New York or London. GrowNYC says that over 50% of what is put into recycling in New York ends in landfill when instead it can be made into something else.

It has been estimated that there is already 165 million tons of plastic trash floating around in the oceans, a lot of which is recyclable but has not been thrown away properly.

Plastics cause issues for the environment, and this is not the first time that countries have tried to come up with a solution to get rid of the stuff.

Up until 2018, lots of countries would export mixed plastics to China as a solution. However, in January 2018 China banned the import of such materials, and now more of that waste is being put straight into landfill.

A few years ago, millions of tonnes of plastic bottles, bags and other plastics were sent overseas because it is often cheaper to handle waste in these countries. However, more often than not, nothing was recycled and was instead added to landfills somewhere else. 

As plastic products are likely to be with us for many more years, it is time for everyone to take responsibility for their own waste habits. 

Recycling is a good way to get sustainable and try to reduce your impact on the planet, but not all facilities operate equally. Unlike years ago, there is more than one way to recycle, and not all companies are as sustainable as they claim to be.

You need to take time to consider your options to make sure that you are not contributing to the already overflowing landfills in this country. Ridly is the most sustainable option for those living in Sydney, Australia. 

Where Does Plastic Waste Actually Go?

Most people believe that the recycling process is simple - you throw away plastic bottles and other plastic waste into the recycling bin, then it is taken to a recovery facility to be melted down and reused for other products.

However, recycling has never been this simple, and the more plastic we produce, the more complicated it becomes.

Something we do have right is the fact that plastic waste, such as singe-use bottles, are processed by a specialised facility. These are commonly known as a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), and they separate waste into parts to see which material can be recycled. 

Years ago, this was the only part of the process, but now we have more plastic than ever before, so recycling needs to take on more steps. For example, with plastic bottles, the main body will be used in one facility, but the plastic caps need to be processed somewhere else. 

There are actually seven major resin categories of plastic, and most of us can't tell the difference between these materials. This is a problem because not all plastics products can be recycled, and each type has its own routine that it needs to go through after you have thrown it in the bin.

This large number of plastic products we use, from bottles to packaging to even toys for our children, has made things more complicated. Depending on the type of material that has been thrown in the bin, the plastic may have to be forwarded to another facility to be processed.

Certain kinds of plastics will be sent to a separate plastics recycling facility (PRF) in the country to be processed. In PRFs, plastics, like from bottles, are typically pelletised before being transported to another facility where they will be melted and use again.

Your waste goes through a lot after you have thrown it in the trash, and not all companies operate in the same way. It is important that you consider the goals and morals of a company before using their recycling programs.

Ridly is the most sustainable recycling company in Sydney, and they offer an extensive recycling process to ensure that as much waste as possible can be reused.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Recycled Material?

Over 70 percent of all plastic goes straight to landfill every year, despite recycling bins being widely accessible. 

In most developed countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, properties have colour-coded bins to give homeowners a chance to lessen the load on recycling facilities. Plastics need to be sorted once they have gone into a recycling bin to keep the final product as pure as possible, making it easier for them to be recycled.

For example, when you buy a bottle of water, it should be thrown in a green bin when out and about in public places. But this colour coding is not always the same across the world, and it can cause confusion.

People are being urged to read the labels on their products before they throw it away to see which bin it needs to go into and how it can be recycled. Even with all of these efforts, the Science Advances paper says that only 9 percent of all plastic is being recycled, according to studies done in 2017. 

Over the years, this number has not really changed much. In fact, waste continues to be added to landfills.

Recyclable materials like paper and a plastic bottle are easy to put into the recycling bin, as we understand the rules for these. However, not all of the things we throw in the bin are recyclable, which means that more plastic packaging, toys, and other waste will end in landfills over the years.

There is a different recycling routine for the seven major categories of plastic. 

For example, high-density polyethylene such as plastic bottle caps, water pipes, and milk jugs can be made to form new items, but they need to be separate from other forms of plastic.

Another common kind of plastic that is said to be thrown away in the thousands on a daily basis is polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This is the material used for single-use bottles, and it can be easily recycled. 

As you can imagine, the recycling process can be expensive as there are a number of stages that need to be done before it can be reused for energy. This is why countries such as the U.S relied on shipping their waste to Asian countries years ago because it was cheaper - even though it was not sustainable at all. Ridly processes all paper and plastic waste in Sydney and ensures that the recycled energy will be used in the country, which is why they are such a sustainable company.

How Does Recycling Work?

Depending on what is going to be recycled, the process can be very different. However, for this article we are going to address the waste that takes up the highest percentage in Australia, the U.S and the U.K - PET.

Items such as bottles and plastic packaging can be used again for new materials if they are recycled correctly. Green Recycling says that PET plastic can be used up to seven times as something new before its structure is undermined and it comes to the end of its life. 

This is why PET recycling is one of the biggest markets, and it is often the easiest for recycling companies to offer.

Over 60 percent of PET plastics are used in the manufacture of clothing and fabrics. The Green Recycling initiative says that there are many other uses for this kind of plastic, including:

  • Containers like a cosmetic container or bottles like a water bottle 
  • Trays and packaging for edibles such as food, salads and other takeaway items
  • Edible oil containers

PET is used commonly in the food market, and one of its best uses is as packaging for a high-value edible oil. It is said that this material can be used for oils of all kinds.

There are various benefits that come with this kind of packaging, including the fact it is odour-free, which is why it is commonly used for food.

It also happens to be the easiest plastic to recycle, which is great news because it is used often. 

Next time you buy a bottle of water or some takeaway food, make sure to consider how else it would be used and make sure to recycle!

Ready to be rid of it? Grab a quick quote from our team.

Call us on 0488 846 336.

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