What comes to mind when you look at the mountain of plastic bottles that you've built over time? The first thing that probably comes to mind is that you need to go easy on the soft drinks. As you continue to ponder over this, you try to evaluate how much your 'plastic mountain' would fetch at a recycling plant. Hold that thought for a minute and explore a side of plastic recycling that you probably didn't know about.
Not All Plastics Will Be Recycled
This often comes as a shocker to many but it's true. The key word here is 'will'. All types of plastic 'can' be recycled but not all will be accepted at a recycling yard. Different types of plastic are used to make bottles. Each type contains a different resin, which is responsible for the varying physical and chemical properties of the different plastics. Plastic bottles have a coding symbol that identifies the resin contained within the plastic. This symbol is made of three arrows that form a triangular shape and many people falsely believe that the symbol indicates that the bottle in question is recyclable. For example, soda bottles that have the letters PVC or HPDE below this symbol have polyvinyl-chloride and high-density polyethylene as their respective resin bases. When plastic bottles arrive at a recycling yard, they're sorted according to their resin component. Recycling plants often have restrictions with respect to the plastic resins that they recycle. Bottles with the 'wrong' resin base won't be recycled at the facility in question.
Plastics Bottles Aren't Only Recycled Into New Plastic Bottles
Other than new plastic bottles, plastic recycling produces several other useful products. Take plastic lumber for example. This is a construction material commonly used for residential decking applications. Plastic lumber is made of 100% recycled plastic. This gives it several advantages over traditional lumber. For example, plastic lumber is fully resistant to moisture/water damage, which is often responsible for warping and for the development of rot on traditional lumber. This is a significant quality considering that the outdoor deck area is constantly exposed to moisture/water from the atmosphere. Vegan wool is another good example. This is a type of plastic fabric used to make several items including fleece blankets and cloth diapers. Plastic is melted into strands, which are then incorporated into the fabric material used for the blankets and diapers.
It's been a minute, hasn't it? Now evaluate how much that 'plastic mountain' of recyclable bottles is worth.