When plastic containers are recycled, they are firstÂ cleaned, then ground into tiny pellets and put into a flotationÂ tank. This separates out the various plastic resins from otherÂ waste material.
Once they are separated out, the plastic resinsÂ are ready for reuse. They are melted down, then molded into newÂ plastic products.
The Elements Of Plastic
Plastics are made mostly of polymers, large molecules ofÂ carbon and hydrogen and oxygen. These polymers can be mixed withÂ a number of other ingredients, including stabilizers, fillers,Â and coloring agents.
This makes for a wide variety of types ofÂ plastic, having many different useful properties.Â Unfortunately,Â this variety also makes plastic one of the most difficult thingsÂ to recycle.
What's Your Type?
The biggest problem for plastic recyclers is that plasticsÂ come in many different types, and it's impossible to tell some ofÂ these apart just by looking at them. For example, two liter sodaÂ bottles are made of a plastic called polyethylene terephthalate,Â or P.E.T..
Another type of plastic, polyvinyl chloride, can lookÂ just like P.E.T., but if a small amount of it is present with theÂ soda bottles you are recycling, it can ruin the entire batch.
To help prevent this problem, manufacturers stamp allÂ plastic products with a recycling code number. Plastics areÂ grouped into seven categories. P.E.T. plastic is number one,Â while polyvinyl chloride is number three.
Separate Your Plastics!
Milk jugs and plasticÂ grocery bags are both number two.Â It's important to separate your plastics very carefullyÂ before you recycle them. And remember: carrying your bottles toÂ a recycling center is just the first step. It's just asÂ important to BUY items made from recycled material as it is toÂ recycle them.