Waste bins

The Plastic Recycling Quick Guide

Plastics have come under scrutiny in recent years, with single-use plastics becoming something of a dirty word for their environmental impact. Indeed, the global attitude to plastic is shifting, with plastic bans and regulations becoming increasingly prevalent.

BUSINESS WASTE STATISTICS: PLASTIC RECYCLING

  • The UK currently recycles in the region of 350 000 tonnes of plastic each year – and the quantity is expected to increase in future too.
  •  74% of plastic bottles are recycled.
  • 46% of plastic packaging is recycled.
  • 31% of all plastic is recycled.

WHY IS PLASTIC RECYCLING SO IMPORTANT?

The media has been full of images and stories on the effects of plastics on the environment. Quite simply, our consumption of plastics has become environmentally unsustainable and this has forced a much-needed shift in behaviour.

Environmental resources

Many think of the environmental consequences of waste plastics, but its environmental impact starts long before disposal. Plastic is made by chemically bonding oil and gas to create monomers and the manufacturing process requires energy and resources (creating new polymers is a more energy-intensive process). When you think of the amount of plastic created daily around the world, this makes the recovery, recycling, and re-purposing of plastics critically important.

Environmental impact

Where plastic ends up in the waste cycle can have dire environmental effects. Plastic notoriously takes an inordinately long period of time to break down. When plastics go into landfill, combined with other waste forms, they can create a toxic leachate which is poisonous to eco-systems and wildlife – both on land and at sea. Indeed, marine wildlife have become the poster children for the anti-plastic cause and exposed our oceans as dumping grounds for generations of plastic waste.

Environmental attitude

The global drive of environmental awareness is becoming more and more necessary. Our attitude to plastic can drive healthy attitudes around the environment in general.

Health

Human health and the environment should be looked at concurrently. By contaminating ground water, streams, and rivers – and with micro-plastics being found in the fish and animals we consume from the oceans – our health is, in turn, negatively affected by the scourge of plastic.

It boosts resource efficiency

Let’s not think of plastic as waste. Let’s think of it as a resource. Plastic is versatile and useful – hence its popularity. Recycling plastics stands to create a sustainable, cost-effective source of raw materials.

PLASTIC RECYCLING TARGETS

  • The United Kingdom aims to recycle 50% of its plastic by 2020 and three-quarters of plastic waste is to be recycled by 2035.
  • The Government also aims to further regulate the use of plastic in Britain in a number of ways including clear labelling to avoid consumer confusion, a tax on plastic packaging made from less 30% recycled material, and an outright ban on plastic packaging where an alternative material exists.

WHICH PLASTICS CAN YOUR BUSINESS RECYCLE?

Every kind of plastic can be recycled – some to a greater extent and with greater ease than others. The most commonly recycled plastics are PET and HDPE plastics, which are those used in plastic bottles. Some of the least recycled plastic is polystyrene

RECOVERY vs RECYCLING

Recovery is not to be confused with recycling. Recovery is the amount of plastic collected, which will then go on to recycling. The statistics on this will often differ, with recovery often being higher than recycling. This comes down to a number of factors, contamination of recovered goods being one.

WHAT IS DRY MIXED RECYCLING?

Dry mixed recycling creates useful items out of clean, uncontaminated waste. These waste types include:

  • Paper
  • Cans
  • Cardboard
  • Certain types of plastic

This is a popularly-used form of recycling because it most closely resembles the household recycling model. However, there are a list of contaminants which fall outside of dry mixed recycling which can cause confusion or creep in because of ignorance.

WHAT IS SINGLE-STREAM RECYCLING?

As the name suggests, single-stream recycling is the recycling of a single form of material. This is an especially useful form of waste management if your business generates a lot of one form of waste. Waste types include:

  • Plastic
  • Aluminium foil and cans
  • Cardboard
  • Paper

With no complicated bin systems and removing the requirements of cleaning and sorting, single-stream recycling is great for businesses looking to save time and resources through environmentally-efficient waste management.

THE PLASTIC RECYCLING PROCESS

The most common form of plastic recycling is mechanical recycling (although advances in chemical recycling are being made all the time).

  • Plastic is recycled according to polymer. First, it is sorted according to category. This is done both automatically and manually.
  • The plastic is then shredded.
  • It is washed.
  • It is melted and formed into pellets, which form the basis of plastics.
  • It is reborn in the form of other plastic products.

TOP PLASTIC RECYCLING TIPS

  • Avoid contamination Which bin are you using for your plastic waste? If you are throwing your plastic waste into a general bin, it will head to landfill or face incineration rather than be recycled.
  • Clean it up before you toss it out Especially in the case of food packaging, clean your plastic before binning it for effective recycling.

OUTSOURCING YOUR BUSINESS WASTE MANAGEMENT

In this day and age, one is left to wonder why anyone wouldn’t recycle. It has been found that the leading reason for a failure to recycle is confusion. Many members of the public find the parameters of recycling confusing and so do not participate. This makes education of staff a fundamental issue for business owners in the UK – one that can save money and benefit the environment through reduced landfill waste.

At Smarter Business, our team of waste specialists take the hassle out of business recycling and streamline waste management for optimal performance. We can advise you on the commercial recycling services best-suited to your business and offer cost-effective, environmentally-friendly solutions for optimal business performance. What will your business do with its savings?

Contact Smarter Business today to discuss how your business can strategise around rubbish and come up with a waste management plan for competitive advantage.