Recycling plastic is probably the most confusing process in the recycling world. According to the EPA, in 2018, the US generated 8.3 million tons of plastic waste that were sent to landfills. A large amount of that plastic should and could have been recycled and repurposed into useful products.
For many people, there is simply a lack of knowledge about what, exactly, to do with various types of plastic. There are so many types of plastic that some may throw up their hands and chuck all of it into the dumpster. That is certainly a shame when so much of it is recyclable.
Help is here. Finding a local plastic recycling center for all types of plastic, from bottles to containers, and anything numbered 1 thru 7 in between, will be simplified. Plastic recycling centers can be found in many cities and towns across the United States. Before we get into where to find plastic recycling centers near you, we will offer a comprehensive guide to types of plastic, and an overview of plastic recycling, including the many benefits.
Plastic recycling helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, and it also helps conserve natural resources. If we can help educate others about plastic recycling and the do’s and don’ts, then we can help a bit with reducing unnecessary waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that over 30% of all plastic waste is recycled. That means we can do a whole lot more.
Overview of Plastic Recycling
The process of plastic recycling involves collecting, sorting, cleaning, and then shredding the plastic into small pieces.
The first step in the recycling process is collection, of course. There are numerous ways recyclers end up with recyclable materials at their facilities, from a city-wide program to private drop-off, and also commercial contracts. Recycling facilities often contract with medium to large companies to properly dispose of their recyclables and waste. In many states, there are strict requirements for companies to minimize landfill waste. Some of the plastic comes from regular customers or community events.
After collection, the plastic is sorted by machines at the facility. They are often sorted by type, thickness, and sometimes even color. The sorted plastics are then cleaned and washed. It is still important to clean your plastic item at home before sending it to the center. In this stage, labels, adhesives and other impurities are removed.
The final step is shredding. The plastic is fed through shredders, and some of it is ready to be used at this stage. Small pieces of shredded plastic can be used as additives to things such as asphalt. The rest of the shredded plastic is then melted and formed into pellets so more impurities can now be removed. For example, metals mixed in which couldn’t be washed away earlier can be found using magnets. Now pure plastic pellets can be used to create new plastic products.
Benefits of Plastic Recycling
One major benefit of recycling plastic is, of course, reducing the trash in our landfills. This is particularly important when it comes to plastic waste since the chemicals in plastics often leach into the groundwater and can negatively affect the surrounding ecosystem. We produce so much waste and if we can minimize that waste, we should.
Waste reduction is just one way plastic recycling is beneficial to the environment, which benefits all of us. Recycling plastics reduces the need to produce more plastic, which in turn reduces pollution. Plastic production requires significant use of oil and burning the oil increases greenhouse gases. In turn, this reduces the demand for fossil fuels and other natural resources such as water, natural gas, and coal.
What Types Of Plastic Can Be Recycled Near Me
Fortunately, it is easy to locate plastic recycling near me, but knowing what can and cannot be recycled is where it gets a bit confusing. Here is some information on the different types of plastic.
Plastic #1 or PET/PETE is the most commonly recycled type of plastic. It is not suggested for reuse and is used in water bottles, beverage containers, and salad dressing bottles. This is the type most people are familiar with and take into collection points for payment.
Plastic #2 or HDPE is a little thicker and used for things like milk jugs and shampoo bottles. This type of plastic is also highly recyclable, and almost always accepted curbside.
Plastic #3 or PVC is flexible and is used for plastic film on foods or mouthwash bottles. It is not usually accepted at recycling locations. It also can leach into foods and shouldn’t be heated or reused.
Plastic #4 or LDPE is thin and flexible, it is the type of plastic used in shopping bags and bread bags. It is also not commonly accepted, but many places collect the bags, and some recyclers have found uses for them.
Plastic #5 or PP is used in products like ketchup bottles and plastic straws and medicine bottles, among other products. It is recyclable and can be made into various items.
Plastic #6 or PS is basically styrofoam, which is a product name. The technical name is: polystyrene. It should be avoided and is not recyclable. It is used in to-go food containers and in packaging. It ends up in landfills and is harmful to our environment. Alternatives are available for it’s purposes.
Plastic #7 or BPA, polycarbonate is the type of plastic used in 5-gallon water jugs and sometimes in food containers. It is a category for all that don’t fit within the others. It is safe to assume these products are not recyclable. They don’t break down like paper does and will sit in a landfill for a very, very long time. There may be some exceptions that can be recycled, but definitely not in a curbside program.
In general, Plastic #1 and #2 can be tossed into your curbside recycling bin. Plastic #3 and #4 require specialized handling, so they cannot be tossed into a regular recycling bin.
Any plastics numbered 1 thru 7.
Empty plastic containers, such as:
- Milk Jugs
- Liquid dishwashing bottles
- Mouthwash bottles
- Lotion bottles
- Shampoo bottles
- Bleach containers
- Detergent containers
- Juice bottles
- Soda bottles
- Margarine and yogurt tubs
- Plastic planters
- Car seats (without the cloth)
- Plastic laundry baskets
- Plastic swimming pools
- Plastic hangers
- Polystyrene products: egg cartons, containers, plates, and cups
- Plastic bags: film plastics, dry cleaner bags, and grocery bags
- Food and blister packaging
Plastic is an insanely durable material that resists decomposition, with a presumed life span of over 500 years. It’s safe to say that every bottle you’ve ever used is still somewhere on the planet, although not necessarily in its original form. Plastic bottles get sold, shipped, melted, resold, and shipped again, sometimes crossing the entire planet.
Preparing Plastic Items for Recycling
Please make sure that you at least wipe out these items. It is important they are mostly clean and dry when sent to recycling centers. For plastic containers or beverage containers, make sure they are empty. If they have residue, then give them a rinse and let them dry out.
Other than that, the only other basic rule to follow is to NOT bag them in plastic bags or any type of bag. Curbside plastic recycling bins can accept any type of plastics from the list above, but they should not be bagged. The plastic bags can become entangled in the machinery at the recycling centers and cause a lot of delays and potential damage.
Where To Recycle Plastic Nearby
Many recycling plants sort, recover, and then discard unusable materials. Often, this is due to people not knowing what is truly recyclable. An average of 50% of what gets put into a recycling bin never gets recycled. So, again, it’s very important to become knowledgeable about exactly what goes into those blue bins.
Plastic recycling locations can be found throughout most metropolitan areas, and recycling programs are frequent even in more rural areas of the United States. The first place you can try is in your municipal waste program or curbside program. Depending on your city or county, there may be regular collection of most types of plastic.
However, be certain you are not mixing in plastics that are not accepted by your curbside program because this could result in the refusal of your entire recycling bin. Some examples of common plastics not accepted by most include heavy and thick plastic toys or bins.
If you do not have access to a curbside recycling program, the next place to look is at your city’s website. Here you should find a drop-off location or other alternatives such as recycling events or recycling centers along with the hours they are open. Many times the city may even provide yearly or more frequent household pick-up of recyclable items, including plastics, at no cost.
Plastic #1 and #2 can often be recycled at a kiosk or small recycling collection site located at your local grocery store or shopping mall. These collection points will also pay you for your empty bottles and cans. Next time you’re grocery shopping, take note of the location of one and its hours, which may vary.
Where Can I Recycle Plastic Close To Me
Give your local recycling site a quick call, as often the information online can be outdated or inaccurate. They should be able to quickly answer your questions when you inform them of what type of plastic items you are seeking to recycle. Plastic recycling that is not plastic bottles or #1-#6 may not be accepted or may be accepted for a small fee.
Whatever your reasons are for recycling, whether it is to make some extra cash or help the environment, or both perhaps, it should be the responsibility of everyone to lend that extra hand. Many years from now, when future generations look back at all the materials we buried in the ground, they may think how silly we were for filling our landfills with resources. So, get to a plastic recycling facility near you and put that plastic to good use.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are the benefits of recycling plastics?
Recycling plastics first and foremost benefits the environment. It reduces waste filling up landfills, saves resources, and also reduces pollution. Plastic is so versatile and long-lasting that it can be used and reused over and over again. Recycled plastic can be made into so many things, and that allows for less use of limited resources like oil, water, etc. Another benefit is the money you could earn by turning waste into recyclables. Many locations pay well for plastic bottles and jugs.
Where can you recycle plastic bottles?
Plastic bottles are the easiest and most convenient to recycle. They can be recycled in your curbside bin or collected and taken to a recycling center for payment. Often, there are also recycling kiosks at grocery stores or in parking lots of major shopping centers. All of these locations are accepting recycling drop-off locations.
What types of plastics can be recycled?
Various types of plastic can be recycled. The most common one is, of course, plastic beverage bottles, which are usually made with plastic #1 or PET, but others are also easily recyclable. Plastic #2 and #3 are items such as shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, and milk jugs that are also recyclable curbside for most people. Plastic #4 is usually a plastic film such as a plastic bag, and it needs to be recycled in a different way and not curbside. Plastic #5 is another one used in food containers such as yogurt and margarine. It is recyclable also, but may not be accepted at every site. #6 is used in styrofoam cups and to-go containers. It is not recyclable and should be avoided whenever possible. Plastic #7 is generally not able to be recyclable.
What are the end products of recycled plastics?
Recycled plastic can be used to create a variety of items, such as clothing, furniture, and toys. Considering how versatile and long-lasting plastics are, the sky is truly the limit. Plastic pellets are even used in asphalt. Recycled plastic has too many uses to list. Many retail products will proudly display on the packaging that some or all of the material used to create their product was from recycled plastics that would otherwise be filling a landfill.
How do I prepare my plastic for recycling?
Plastic bottles should be completely empty and rinsed out. It’s best if they are also dry. Any plastic should be cleaned of debris before being sent to the recycling facility. There is no need to cut it up, and the only other rule is not to bag it up in plastic. The plastic bags will get trapped in the machinery and can cause lots of trouble.
How do I recycle plastic bags?
When it comes to plastic bags, these are treated the same as plastic film or plastic wrap of any sort and cannot be recycled curbside. However, almost every major grocery chain and several other retail stores have receptacles for accepting these bags to be recycled and reused.