With the different types of plastic waste out there, it can be quite tricky to figure out which ones can actually be recycled and given a new purpose. Luckily, the good folks at Central Waste have put together a handy guide for you to check out below. It’s definitely worth a read if you want to become more informed on this topic!

  • The most frequently used plastic types.
  • How they tend to be used.
  • How they tend to impact the environment when being disposed of.

Plastic type: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET/PETE)

Polyethylene Terephthalate is regularly referred to as PET or PETE.  Out of the types of plastic waste, this is the most prevalent plastic on the planet earth.  You may be surprised that this type of plastic is the one that is in around 70% of all the plastic bottles utilised within the United Kingdom.  This means it is highly likely you have made use of this type of plastic when you purchased many of the famous brands of drinks on the U.K. market

Is it possible to recycle Polyethylene Terephthalate?

  • The good news is PET/PETE is recycled widely. The plastic that is recovered is re-purposed into:
    • A wide range of containers for food.
    • Containers for drinks.
    • Certain textiles.
    • Carpets.

How can you re-cycle Polyethylene Terephthalate?

  • The plastic is processed and turned into monomers by being hydrolysed down. The monomers are then put through a process of purification

The result is a product that can be used to create new Polyethylene Terephthalate products.

Plastic type: High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

The origin of High-Density Polyethylene is that it was created for use as piping in drains and sewers.  However, now you will find High-Density Polyethylene used in a large number of products that you have likely come into contact with on a daily basis.  Some examples would be:

  • The plastic milk bottles most of us now pick up from the supermarket.
  • The bottles for the cleaning products that we have in our homes such as bleaches and anti-bacterial.
  • Hygiene items such as shampoo bottles.

How can you re-cycle High-Density Polyethylene?

  • The really good news is High-Density Polyethylene will under temperature extremes (low or high) break down. This feature of the plastic has resulted in High-Density Polyethylene being one of the most common plastic to be recycled.
  • There is a stringent cleaning approach applied to the plastic
  • The plastic is homogenised
  • The plastic is made into granules and then shredded

Once the above steps have been completed the plastic is ready to be re-used.

Plastic type: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Polyvinyl chloride is one of the stalwarts of the plastics in our day to day environment as it has been around for longer than most especially in industry.  Polyvinyl chloride is used in the following:

  • Frames for Windows.
  • Frames for doors.
  • The backing of carpets.
  • Pipes that are in personal residences.

Is it possible to re-cycle Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)?

  • It is not as good news on this type of plastic. It is not easy to re-cycle this plastic as it releases harmful toxins.  The result of this issue is that below 1% of Polyvinyl Chloride is processed for re-purposing every year.

Where there are instances that the Polyvinyl Chloride has been processed for recycling it tends to be re-purposed into items such as:

  • Guttering for houses.
  • Cones for the road.
  • Panels.

Plastic type: Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Low-Density Polyethylene has been with us for quite a while as it was one of the plastics first produced.  You will find Low-Density Polyethylene in the following products:

  • Plastic carrier bags.
  • The thin film you see on packages.
  • The bin bags we use in our homes.

Is it possible to re-cycle Low-Density Polyethylene?

  • Unfortunately, Low-Density Polyethylene is one of the most frequently thrown away types of plastic. It is 75% of the plastics disposed of out of our homes.
  • The good news for the planet however is that as time goes on there are an increased number of recycling programs coming online for Low-Density Polyethylene. This means:
    • There is less Low-Density Polyethylene making it into landfill sites.
    • An increasing amount of recycled Low-Density Polyethylene is being made into the same type of products they formally were.

Plastic type: Polypropylene (PP)

This is another of the plastics that came online decades ago.  This type of plastic is used in the following items:

  • Trays for ready meals.
  • Butter containers.
  • Bottles containing fruit juice.
  • Carpets.
  • Curtains.
  • Car upholstery.

Is it possible to re-cycle Polypropylene (PP)?

  • The answer is unfortunately that it depends on the facility where your recycling is taken. Quite a number of recycling locations are not geared up to recycle Polypropylene. However, where it can be recycled it stands a good chance of ending up as the same type of item it was before recycling.

Plastic type: Polystyrene (PS)

You may know Polystyrene by its other name of Styrofoam.  Its origins are that it was produced by accident whilst attempting to produce a medicine using natural sourced resins.  As you will probably know this type of plastic is both easily formable into shapes and light in weight.  You are most likely to come across this type of plastic in the following items:

  • Protective packaging within boxes for fragile items.
  • Boxes that transport eggs.
  • Containers for fast food.

Is it possible to re-cycle Polystyrene?

  • It not good news for this type of plastic when it comes to recycling as it is one of the most damaging to planet. The oceans of the planet all have many many small its of this plastic.
  • Although this type of plastic/polymer tends not to be recycled it is always worth checking with your waste disposal specialist contractor/site.

Plastic type: Unallocated References or Miscellaneous Plastics (all the others)

As you will no doubt realise there are many more plastics than the few listed above such as:

  • Polycarbonate
  • Acrylic
  • Fibreglass
  • Nylon
  • Polylactide

Is it possible to re-cycle unallocated references or miscellaneous plastics?

  • The plastics that come under this banner have a tendency to contain BPA and so can be most difficult to recycle.
  • Due to the large list and wide range of plastics in this category, it is best that you consult your waste disposal specialist or recycling location as to the plastics in question.

Next Steps

If you have any queries about the types of plastic waste or the disposal of plastic for recycling please contact one of the friendly ‘Central Waste’ team and they will be happy to be of assistance.  We can also help you with the disposal of non-plastic waste.