There are two ways to recycle plastics;
Mechanical recycling can only be done a few times before the polymers break down and the quality of the plastic degrades. So, unlike glass for instance, you cannot necessarily use mechanically recycled polymers to remake the same product. You have to use them to make something different. The chain of recycling might go as follows
Virgin PET bottle to fleece or carpet
Carpet fibers to plastic lumber.
Plastic lumber to waste disposal plant – though manufacturers claim that plastic lumber can be recycled again.
This process is sometimes called DOWNCYCLING.
Sadly it is not quite as easy as that. There are hundreds of kinds of plastic – some easy to recycle, others not (plastic film for example ). Consequently is not cost effective to recycle all plastics. While it is theoretically possible to recycle nearly all plastics only a few of the simpler plastics actually are.
Find out more about mechanical plastic recycling here.
Here plastics are actually dissolved back into their original chemical components. These are then cleaned up and reused to make new plastics which, it is claimed, are as good as the original. At present it is a limited, expensive and problematic solution and can’t be applied to all plastics. Even so, it is already being employed by some companies.
Patagonia, for example, are using it in their Capalene base layer and fleeces. You can wear them them and then recycle these articles of clothing through their recycling program. It’s a very interesting scheme – read more about it here.
There are many other ways to recycle and reuse waste plastic, from arty (make your own lampshade) to the very strange.
Recycling is only part of the answer – a small part. Our favourite solution is to REFUSE plastics.
Check these plastic-free products. Use them then compost them.