Have questions about plastic recycling? The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) can help! APR is the voice of plastic recycling and they want you to have the most current, correct information available. Keefe Harrison, APR Director of Communications, answers some FAQs.
Sometimes I hear that recycled plastics just don’t have strong markets in the US. Is that true?
No way! The US plastics recycling industry is vibrant and healthy. APR has over 100 members who recycle plastic or use recycled plastic to make new materials right here in North America. The world’s largest bottle-to-bottle PET recycling plant (think of those soda bottles) is in South Carolina while the world’s largest HDPE recycler (think of milk jugs and detergent bottles) is in Alabama. Why are there so many domestic recyclers? There’s lots of demand for this good material to get turned into new stuff right here in the USA! Wondering what kind of companies use recycled feedstock to make new consumer goods? Take a look at this map of demand for recycled content stuff in the Southeastern US.
Can bottles be made back into bottles?
Certainly. A plastic bottle can be recycled back into a bottle. It’s not reused, remember. That bottle gets ground into tiny flakes, washed, melted into pellets smaller than a pea, and then reformed back into a bottle. Remember, plastic can be recycled over and over again! Want to know something cool about recycling? The process is so high-tech that some companies use optical sorters to blend 1,000’s of pieces of different colored flake from all types of recycled bottles to blend and melt the right color for a new type bottle. That saves on dye needed to make those colorful bottles on a shelf! Click here for an example of how one recycler does that.
Can plastic get recycled into something new or different than it was before?
You bet! Carpet may have once been a plastic bottle. That decking material may have once been a plastic bag. Drainage pipe on a construction site might have once been a detergent container. Even railroad ties can be made out of recycled plastic!
Does recycling plastic save energy?
Yes and that’s important! A 2010 study confirms that recycling plastics, specifically PET and HDPE (the most common packaging materials in your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room!), results in significant savings in energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
Are caps and lids really recyclable?
Yes, there are growing markets and uses for those caps and lids and many of our APR members want the material! Most often caps are made out of polypropylene and that material can be used to make everything from plastic paint cans you see in the hardware store, to car parts, to new bottles. New technology allows for the recyclability of this very valuable material so this is a change from plastic recycling guidelines a few years ago. If your community isn’t recycling caps, let them know about the need for the material and send them to APR’s website for more information or help!
How can I help kids learn about plastics recycling?
KidsRecyclingZone.com has lots of games, tools and tips for kids, teachers and grownups!