Let’s face it, since the invention of plastics, we are addicted to it. We use it everywhere in our lives, from food wrap to shopping bag, from water bottles to kids’ toys. The more we use it, the more we find it convenient. Plastics are easy to produce, easy to mold in shapes, and easy to throw away. However, due to the massive amount of plastic waste, we encounter 2 questions: how to recycle plastics? and How much plastic is recycled?
The following graphs show how the plastics process after discard. It is optimistic that the percentage of recycled is increasing annually. Incineration and discard are shocking and extremely harmful to our environment. Incineration aka pyrolysis generates electricity from plastic waste but generates toxic gas as a byproduct. Discarded waste sit in the street, or go the oceans, both of which are not eco-friendly. This leaves us the only approach – plastic recycling.
How much plastic is recycled? In short, around 56 percent of worldwide plastic waste was discarded, 24 percent was incinerated, and 20 percent was recycled in 2015. Of the plastic waste created between the years 1950 and 2015, surprisingly, merely less than 10 percent was recycled. The discarded portion is such a waste and damage to all human beings. How many plastics are in the ocean due to discarded.
The recycling process is simple if plastic waste is collected and separated clearly. For example, PET water bottles in one set, HDPE milk bottles in one set, and plastic film(LDPE and LLDPE) in one set. All plastic products are labeled with a resin number encircled by a triangle. This indicates what that plastic product is made of and how to sort it into groups. Sorting based on resin number is the prerequisite to plastic recycling.
Nowadays, no need for manual removal of labels and containment. The plastic recycling line can do it all from debale, crush, wash, hot wash, dry and collect. Basically, stream materials go in and clean, dried recyclates(regrind and flakes) go out. The recyclates are similar to resins for pelletizing and injection molding. The byproducts of the plastic recycling line are water and some plastic debris.
The intelligent recycling system takes care of bulky wastes. Firstly, industrial shredder and crusher break down the plastics into pieces. Next, pieces go to a big water tank, then to repetitive intensive washers. In this process, impurities like grease, paper labels, chemicals are removed. In the end, a centrifugal dryer brings out all the water and steam from plastic flakes, obtaining clean recyclates.
The following is a running example of post-consumer plastic recycling process.