What You Need to Know About Plastic and Recycling

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If you recycle, chances are you throw your recyclables away without giving it much thought. While you may think you’re doing the right thing, recycling can be a bit more complicated than we make it out to be. Here’s what you need to know about recycling, and what you can do to make sure you’re implementing the best practices possible. 

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Not all plastic is recyclable 

Contrary to what you may think, not all plastics are made equal, with some being completely useless when recycled. Things like plastic bags, straws, and some coffee cups are a big no when it comes to recycling. If there is no demand for certain plastics in the market, there is no chance for waste products like these to be purchased by recyclers. 

Dirty plastic is not recyclable 

Any plastic material with food residues on it cannot be recycled. Plastics must be considered to be in good condition for it to be transformed into recycled goods. If you’re throwing away a plastic container, be sure to wash first, or it will simply be filtered out by recyclers and thrown in a landfill. 

Plastic loses its quality when recycled 

Plastics consist of simple polymers of long chain atoms which give it its strong, lightweight, and flexible characteristics. However, after a piece of plastic has been recycled, it will begin to lose its quality, eventually decreasing to a point where it can be used. Plastics can be recycled about 2-3 times before it becomes unable to recycle again. 

Glass and metal can be recycled forever 

Unlike plastics, glass and metals are supreme when it comes to recycling, with both having the ability to be recycled infinity. They can be recycled forever without losing any quality in their structure, making them the ultimate materials in the reusable circle of production. Unfortunately, due to the lower cost of plastics, we have transitioned away from using glass and metals. 

You can’t recycle coffee cups 

That Starbucks cup holding your daily latte may seem like it’s totally fine to chuck in the recycling bin once you’re done with it, but unfortunately, they are not recyclable. This is due to the outside of the cup consisting of a thin layer of plastic called polypropylene, which protects the liquid from seeping into the paper of the cup. The paper part of the cup is totally recyclable, but due to plastic film, it is deemed unrecyclable unless separated using an expensive and specialized machine.

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