Plastics have been in use for a little more than a century, but they’ve already infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. Plastic products are used in everything from children’s toys to food packaging in the twenty-first century. In reality, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been manufactured in the last 70 years, with about 6.3 billion metric tons of that going to waste. Just 9% of the waste has been recycled so far. There are many reasons for this, and while our plastic pollution continues to grow, technological advancements and improvements are basic reasons for this and need pf proper recycling.
Why is plastic recycling important, and what are the industry’s challenges?
Plastic recycling is important as a means of dealing with current waste and as part of a circular economy and zero-waste schemes that aim to reduce waste generation and increase sustainability. We should follow waste generation and disposal practices that are good for society, the environment, and the economy.
Dealing with the issue faced by plastics, on the other hand, is not easy, and there is a lack of knowledge about the plastic waste issue. Despite the fact that potential problems were first identified in the 1960s, there has traditionally been a lot of resistance to meaningful change, especially from the plastics industry. More people are looking for sustainable alternatives and learning why plastic recycling is necessary.
Steps in the plastic recycling process
Here is the steps of plastic waste recycling process
1. Gathering and distributing
The processing of post-consumer materials from households, businesses, and organizations is the first step in the mechanical recycling process. Local governments or private companies may do this, with the latter being a common choice for businesses.
Taking plastics to local collection points, such as designated recycling bins or facilities, is another option.
2. Categorizing and sorting
Sorting is the next step in the plastic recycling process. There are several different forms of plastic that recyclers must separate from one another. Plastics may also be classified based on their color, thickness, and intended use.
Washing is an important step in the plastic recycling process because it removes impurities that can stymie the process or even destroy a batch of recycled plastic. Impurities such as product labels and adhesives, as well as dirt and food residue, are commonly targeted in this process.
After that, the plastic is fed into shredders, which shred it into much smaller bits. Unlike molded plastic items, these smaller fragments can recycle for reuse in subsequent stages.
5. Plastics identification and separation
The classification and quality of the plastic parts are tested here. They first separate based on density, which is determined by floating plastic particles in a container of water. Following that, a test for “air classification,” which defines the thickness of the plastic parts, is performed.
6. Compounding + extruding
The shredded plastic particles convert into a usable commodity for manufacturers in this final phase of the plastic recycling process. To make pellets, the shredded plastic melt and crushed together. Since it is not always possible to compound all forms, classifications, and qualities of plastic at a single facility, different grades of plastic often send to other recycling facilities for this final stage.