We often come across different types of plastics items and also regularly have empty plastics like water bottles, milk jugs, cleaning product containers, shampoo bottles, cream bottles/cups, etc. in our homes, offices, and other places.
Additionally, other plastic items usually are classified according to other categories like their uses or their brand names like tap plastics, Johnson plastics, Outwater plastics, Piedmont plastics, berry plastics, animal plastics, laird plastics, regal plastics, etc. also fill our homes after use or spoils.
However, most of the time, we unknowingly throw away these plastic items after use because we are not aware that they can easily be recycled, repurposed, or reused instead.
Recycling and repurposing our everyday empty plastics for reuse are a lot easier than many of us can imagine, plus it can also help you generate a passive income.
Additionally, proper recycling of these plastic materials ultimately benefits our environment by reducing the constant need for more landfills and conserving energy.
There are many creative and simple ways to recycle, repurpose and reuse plastic items, and that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss to provide a comprehensive guide for you to get started with below.
The best and most common empty plastic items that you can recycle include:
1. Empty plastic water bottles
2. Empty plastic cooking oil bottles or containers
3. Empty plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles
4. Empty plastic cream bottles/cups
5. Empty plastic salad dressing containers or bottles
6. Empty plastic peanut butter jars
7. Empty plastic yogurt and butter tubs
8. Empty juice and milk cartons, etc.
Note: Recycling programs however vary across countries, therefore I will recommend that you check with your local recycling center closest to you to find out which plastic items are accepted for recycling in your community.
Recycling plastic items plays a very vital role in our environment thereby making recycling plastics very important due to the following reasons:
1. That by using these recycling and reusing strategies, you will feel good about doing your part to reduce the creation of more landfills
2. This practice also increases the quality of our air
3. Additionally, having fun while using the creative ways to make some of your products without having to spend a dime into making them, will also help to enhance your creative skills.
Once recycled, most of these plastic items can be turned into completely new and different products like carpets, pipes, tables, tote bags, food containers, clothing, furniture, pet homes, composite lumber, fencing, etc.
Simple and Easy Ways to Start Recycling at Home
This recycling process will make the entire process easier for you and your family to start recycling your empty plastic items for personal reuse and repurposing or for commercial sales to generate more passive income for the family.
Here are some simple and easy ways to start recycling in your home:
1. First, create a mini garbage and recycling center in your home with separate, designated bins so your family can easily toss those recyclable items into the designated recycling bins instead of tossing them into the regular general garbage cans.
2. Ensure that your family members are aware of the required plastic items that are recyclable by educating them on what items you can recycle and those that you cannot recycle.
This can be achieved by making a list of recyclable plastic items and hanging the list very close to your garbage and recycling cans.
How to Recycle Plastic Items – Step by Step Guide to Follow
Here is a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to recycle plastic items:
1. Collection and Gathering of Plastic Items
The gathering of empty or waste plastic materials to be recycled is the first step in the plastic materials recycling process.
Plastic materials can be collected or gathered from homes, offices, and public places as well as certain areas that have collection sites where people can dispose of their plastics.
2. Sorting the Plastic Items into Categories
After collecting and gathering your plastics for recycling, the next step is sorting.
Plastics are usually sorted in a few common ways or properties such as color, size, thickness, and use.
This is a very important step to increase the efficiency of plants and avoid the contamination of the end product because if the wrong type of plastic is processed at the incorrect facility, it can reduce the efficiency of the whole process and require the entire batch to be sent back again for resorting.
Here are some of the most common plastic types that you can recycle.
(1) PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
This is a popular thermoplastic, and products like clothing fibers and soft drink bottles are some popular products made from PET.
It is a thin and perfect plastic material for producing low-pressure products.
(2) PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
This is another thermoplastic that is very resistant to chemical and biological damage and is also considered as the most versatile (one of the commonly used) plastic materials around the world.
PVC is used to produce some products like wires, water pipes, waste pipes, bottles, flooring, signage, furniture, and clings films.
However, recycling PVC is not common, and is rarely found in general plastic collections due to the toxicity of PVC when processed.
(3) HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
HDPEis also a thermoplastic that is more softer and flexible compared to PVC but more rigid than PETE. Examples of products that manufacturers use HDPE to produce are gallons and pipes.
(4) LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)
This is a low-density plastic not as strong as HDPE that is highly resilient and used across a wide range of products such as containers, playground fixtures, and plastic trash bags.
Although this resin type is recyclable, many products can be excluded (such as plastic bags) because they pose the risk of clogging machinery and are often deemed not worthwhile to recycle.
(5) PP (Polypropylene)
PP is also a polymer that is commonly used in injection molding and can be found in products from bottle caps to surgical tools and clothing.
PP can also be used to make other items like plastic boxes, plastic furniture, and plastic jar lids.
In most cases, recycling companies will reject it for recycling.
(6) PS (Polystyrene)
PS is a polymer that is frequently used as disposable plastic containers for food, insulated containers, plastic cutlery, yogurt containers as well as in packaging materials.
However, PS is rarely recycled because it is not cost-effective and contains about 95% air. It also requires more energy than it saves to recycle.
3. Washing of Plastic Items to Remove Impurities
The plastics to be used for recycling must be washed before they can be processed further.
This is to remove impurities and everything else that is not made from the plastic itself.
Some of these impurities in plastic to be removed include paper labels, dirty particles, glue, as well as any other additional chemicals that plastic materials may contain.
This process is very essential because failure to remove impurities from the plastics may damage the new product.
4. Shredding and Resizing the Plastic Items
Resizing or shredding the plastic materials involves shredding or granulating the plastic items into smaller particles which increases the surface area of the plastic, thereby making it easier to process, reshape, and transport if needed.
Additionally, the process of breaking down the plastic into smaller pieces also allows any remaining impurities to be found especially for contaminants such as metal, which may not have been properly removed by washing but can be easily be collected with a magnet during the shredding and resizing stage.
5. Identification and Separation of Plastic Materials
At this stage, the plastic pieces are tested for their class and quality using the following methods.
They are first segregated based on density, which is tested by floating the particles of plastic in a container of water.
Followed by a test for what is known as the “air classification”, which determines the thickness of the plastic pieces.
This test is done by placing the shredded plastic into a wind tunnel, with thinner pieces floating while larger/thicker pieces stay at the bottom.
6. Compounding the Plastic Particles
Compounding the plastic particles is the final process in plastic recycling.
At this step, the shredded plastic particles are transformed into a usable product for manufactures.
The shredded plastic materials are melted and crushed together to form pellets.
However, it is not always possible to compound all the types, classifications, and qualities of plastic materials at a single plant, therefore, different grades of plastics are sometimes sent to other recycling facilities for this final step to be carried out properly.
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Simple and Easy Ways to Save and Reuse your Empty or Old Plastic Items in your Home
There are many creative and easy ways to reuse some of your old and empty plastic items in your home instead of tossing them:
1. You can cut off the bottom part of two-liter bottles and use them as small planters in your gardens both indoors and outdoors.
They can also be used for starting seeds before transplanting.
2. You can store pet foods with large plastic snack containers that cheese puffs and the likes come with. This will also help keep the ants away.
3. You can wash and reuse plastic soda and water bottles as pretty water containers for refilling water glasses during food times.
4. You can also use the peanut butter jars to store snacks like cheese crackers.
5. You can use your old salad dressing containers to mix and store your homemade salad dressings.
6. You can use an old fruit juice or milk jug to water your plants.
Read Also: Herbs and Spices Growing Guide
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