Recycling methods include: direct recycling for which selective collection and sorting is required; re-melting and extrusion for making objects such as vehicle parts or mats; and grinding down and mixing with fillers and adhesives, followed by high pressure extrusion to produce low quality plastics where finish and appearance are relatively unimportant, used on plastics that are hardened by curing and cannot be re-melted or re-moulded.

Recycling PET

Plastics have tended not to be recycled as the cost of recycling and decontamination have militated against the process. About 50% of plastics produced in western Europe each year are available for collection and recycling, the remaining accumulating for long term use, such as in building works including plastic frames, pipes and electrical wiring. EC Packaging and Packaging Waste Directives set targets for packaging waste, a target by weight for recovery, and within that target a total for recycling). In order to achieve targets containers are given a label to show the plastics used in manufacture:

Types of Plastic Bottles and Containers
Water and fizzy drinks bottles are made from PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate). After being turned into flakes they can be sent to a factory where a polyester thread is drawn from them to be used in making carpets and fibre filling for pillows, quilts and jackets.
Milk and washing up liquid containers are made from High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE). After being turned into flakes and separated from the PET flakes the resin can be used to make signposts and drainage pipes.
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) containers are relatively difficult to recycle, and there are currently no large-scale recycling schemes operating for post-consumer PVC.

Some plastics which are difficult to recycle
  • Polystyrene and cellophane - Unfortunately there are no facilities to process these materials at present in the UK
  • Plastic packaging - this includes items such as yoghurt pots margarine tubs, plastic food trays and flower pots. At present there are limited facilities to recycle these items in the UK
  • Plastic carrier bags can actually cause problems and prevent good materials from being recycled so make sure they are always loose in your collection container / wheely bin.
  • Food wrappers - Although chocolate bar wrappers and crisp packets may say they are "foil wrapped", it is not foil and this type of plastic cannot be recycled.
Amazon Books
Image of Plastic (Re-using and Recycling)
Author: Ruth Thomson
Publisher: Franklin Watts (2006)
Binding: Hardcover, 32 pages