The Journey of Plastic Recycling

Transforming Waste into Resources

Plastic waste is more than refuse; it represents a resource awaiting a new purpose. At Uberplas, we drive the transformation of discarded plastics into valuable materials. Our operations support environmental sustainability and strengthen global supply chains. This blog will guide you through the essential steps of plastic recycling, illustrating our expertise and how we assist businesses in thriving sustainably. Explore this process and see how recycled plastics can revolutionise your operations.

Why Recycle Plastic?

Recycling plastic plays a crucial role in environmental conservation. By converting waste into reusable materials, we significantly reduce the volume of valuable resources in landfills or incineration centres. This effort reduces land pollution and the damage done by extracting new resources. Uberplas leads these initiatives, showing how effectively recycling conserves natural resources and lessens our ecological footprint. Let’s examine how recycled plastics can revitalise your supply chain and help preserve our planet for future generations.

The Plastic Recycling Process

Step 1: Collection of Waste Plastics

Local councils and waste management companies play an integral role in the plastic recycling process. They collect waste plastics from various sources, including residential, commercial, and industrial areas.

This comprehensive approach gathers a broad range of plastic materials such as LDPE films, HDPE bottles and drums, PET bottles and trays, PP crates, pots and tubs, ABS, PVC and EPS, providing the necessary input for the recycling chain. Glass, metal, and cardboard are other valuable resources councils and waste management companies collect for recycling. The effectiveness of these collection efforts is crucial for maintaining a steady supply of materials needed for sustainable recycling practices.

Step 2: Sorting of Plastics into Categories

Sorting is a critical step in recycling, ensuring that only suitable types of plastics undergo processing together. To achieve this, advanced technologies such as optical sorting machines with near-infrared (NIR) sensors and other sophisticated scanning equipment accurately differentiate and categorise plastics based on their polymer group and colour. This precision allows for the high-quality recycling that manufacturers depend on, ensuring that materials are correctly allocated for the following recycling stages and efficiently reused in new products.

Step 3: Washing to Remove Impurities

The recycling process ensures that every piece of plastic is thoroughly cleaned to eliminate contaminants. Using advanced washing techniques remove substances like food residue, adhesives, and other debris that could compromise the quality of the recycled plastic. This step is essential for maintaining the integrity and purity of the materials as they move to the following recycling stages.

Step 4: Shredding and Regrinding

The plastics are shredded into smaller fragments. This process is crucial in preparing the materials for efficient recycling, as it standardises the size of the plastic pieces, making them easier to process further. The shredding is followed by washing to remove the impurities.

Step 5: Identification and Separation

In recycling, plastic pieces are first separated by testing their class and quality. The procedure begins by categorising the plastics based on their density. This is assessed by floating the particles in a water container to determine which ones rise or sink. Following this, ‘air classification’ is employed to ascertain the thickness of the plastic pieces. This involves placing shredded plastic in a wind tunnel; the lighter, thinner pieces ascend while the heavier, thicker ones remain at the bottom. This method ensures the plastics are sorted adequately for subsequent recycling stages.

Step 6: Extruding and Compounding

The final stages of plastic recycling involve extruding and compounding, crucial steps in transforming plastic scrap into usable material for new products. During extrusion, the cleaned materials are melted, processed into plastic granules, and consistently shaped. These granules are primarily ready for injection moulding, blow moulding, and blown film extrusion applications. However, the granules can also be compounded with additives to enhance their properties, such as strength, flexibility, or colour, before being moulded or blown to the end product. 

The recycling process results in a high-quality material ready for use in manufacturing various new products, completing the cycle of sustainability.

 Challenges in Plastic Recycling

Plastic recycling faces significant hurdles, including the challenge of handling non-recyclable plastics and the fluctuating market demand for recycled materials. Often, the nature or contamination of non-recyclable plastics can hinder recycling processes. Additionally, the market demand for recycled plastics can vary, impacting the sustainability and profitability of recycling operations. These market dynamics require a reliable demand to ensure the continuity of recycling programs. Notably, the prices of virgin plastics often indicate the market prices for recycled plastics, reflecting broader economic conditions.

To overcome these challenges, a collaborative approach is essential. Governments can play a crucial role by implementing policies that encourage using recycled materials and support recycling initiatives. A prime example is the UK’s Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT), which came into effect on 1 April 2022. This tax is levied at a rate of £210.82 per tonne on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content for packaging manufacturers and packaging importers in the UK, aiming to boost the use of recycled plastic in the sector. This policy affects around 20,000 businesses across various industries, including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage. You can visit PWC UK for more details on the Plastic Packaging Tax. 

Companies must integrate recycled plastics into their production processes and develop new applications for recycled materials. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can contribute by raising awareness, advocating for environmental policies, and engaging the public in recycling efforts. Finally, public participation in proper waste disposal and household waste segregation can dramatically improve the quality of recyclable materials from the post-consumer side, enhancing the overall efficiency of the recycling process. Through joint efforts across these sectors, the challenges in plastic recycling can be addressed more effectively, leading to a more sustainable future. It is an effort of all parties involved and must be achieved collectively. Domestic plastic recycling in the UK has increased to 53% in 2022. There is still significant room for improvement. 

How Uberplas is Making a Difference

Uberplas is advancing the plastic recycling industry through targeted initiatives and partnerships. By strategically partnering with local and global recyclers and manufacturers, we ensure a consistent supply of high-quality plastic scrap that supports the mutual recycling targets. The recycled plastics are transformed into sustainable and innovative products, such as packaging materials and construction elements, demonstrating the practical applications and environmental benefits of recycling. Uberplas supports the recycling ecosystem through these efforts and contributes to reducing plastic waste globally.

Conclusion

Recycling is more than a process—it’s a commitment to sustainability and a vital component of the circular economy. By recycling plastics, we reduce waste, conserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental impact. We encourage everyone to participate in these efforts by choosing products made from recycled materials and being thoughtful about recycling at home and in the workplace.

We invite you to join Uberplas in our mission to transform plastic waste into valuable resources. If you’re interested in learning more about our processes, have plastic scrap to supply, or need to source recycled polymers, please get in touch with us. Your involvement can make a significant difference in advancing sustainability and supporting the circular economy. 

Contact Uberplas today to find out how you can contribute to and benefit from our recycling efforts.

References:

https://www.pwc.co.uk/services/tax/plastic-packaging-tax.html#:~:text=implications%20for%20you.-,United%20Kingdom,or%20imported%20into%20the%20UK.