Recycled plastic

30th January 2024

Which plastics can be recycled?

It’s no news that recycling is an important part of sustainability. But which plastics can actually be recycled?

That’s what we want to focus on in this blog post, where we dive into recyclable plastics.

Introduction to plastic recycling

Plastics are made from different polymers that provide different properties and applications. It is these differences that determine whether a plastic type can be recycled or not.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

PET is one of the most recycled plastics worldwide. Best known for its use in beverage bottles and food packaging, this plastic is highly valued in the recycling industry. When PET is recycled, it can be transformed into a variety of new products. For example, recycled PET can be used to make fiber for clothing, new packaging bottles, and even furniture.

But why is PET so easy to recycle? The primary reason is its chemical structure, which allows it to be melted and reformed without losing much of its integrity. Furthermore, there is a strong market demand for recycled PET, driving innovation and efficiency in recycling processes.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE is known for its strength and durability and is used in a wide range of products from milk jugs to shampoo bottles. Its chemical resistance makes it ideal for storing food and other products that require robust packaging. HDPE is relatively easy to recycle, and recycled HDPE is often used to make new containers, pipes, and even toys. But beyond these applications, there is also a growing market for HDPE in the construction industry, where it is used to produce everything from pipes to road signs.


Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

PVC, also known as vinyl, is used in a variety of products, but its recycling is complex. PVC often contains additives such as plasticizers and stabilizers, making it harder to recycle compared to other plastics. However, there are efforts to improve PVC recycling, including the development of technologies to separate and purify PVC, which could open the door to wider recycling opportunities.

Low-density Polyethylen (LDPE)

LDPE is a type of plastic that is primarily used to make things like plastic wrap and shopping bags. While it is technically possible to recycle LDPE, there are challenges associated with it. Its light weight and flexibility can cause problems in the recycling process, as it often gets caught up in machinery and contaminates other materials. However, there are industry efforts to improve recycling processes for LDPE, particularly through the development of more advanced sorting and processing techniques.

Polypropylene (PP)

PP’s strength and heat resistance make it a preferred plastic for many applications, including car parts and food containers. PP recycling is on the rise, partly due to improvements in sorting technology and a growing awareness of the need to recycle this type of plastic.

How to recognize recyclable plastic?

Most plastic products are labeled with a recycling symbol – a triangle of arrows with a number in the middle. This number indicates the type of plastic. For example, PET is labeled with the number 1, while HDPE has the number 2. This labeling helps recycling facilities sort the plastic more efficiently.

Challenges and future of plastic recycling

Plastic recycling faces several challenges, including contamination in recycling streams, lack of standardization, and economic barriers. To improve recycling rates, it’s important to focus on both improving recycling technologies and consumer awareness. Initiatives such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and improvements in waste management systems can also play a key role.

Understanding which plastics can be recycled is essential to promote sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste. While some plastics such as PET and HDPE have relatively high recycling rates, others such as PVC and PS still have a long way to go. By working together – consumers, businesses, and governments – we can make great strides towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly society.

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