Introduction to Recycling
Broadly speaking, plastic is recycled either mechanically, where plastic is washed, ground into flakes, and melted to form new products, or chemically where plastic is broken down into its basic components. But at its core, recycling is the process of taking something deemed unusable and making it into something new instead of throwing it away. This simple concept becomes complex when the recyclables interact with our environment, when economic subsidies and incentives prioritize disposable products, when communities lack the infrastructure to capture a diverse consumer waste-stream, and when consumer and manufacturer behavior perpetuates single-use markets.
In process terms, there are two types of recycling. An open-loop process delays disposal by converting the waste material into a product different from the original. For example, processing plastic bottles to make fleece fabric. It is considered "open" because the fleece cannot be recycled again. A closed-loop process enables products to be recycled over and over again without adding new materials. For example, recycling aluminum cans can be recycled without adding new materials.
However, very few products completely close "their loop". While most plastics, #1 PET #2 HDPE #4 LDPE and #5 PP, are readily recycled, other plastics #3 PVC #6 PS and #7 PC are not economically feasible to recycle or not environmentally safe to recycle. Additionally, the plastic product's use determines its recycle-ability. In Ohio, if a product is used for food it will most likely be land-filled due to the added cost of removing food contaminants before recycling.
There are several methods for collecting plastics:
Drop-off recycling centers, retail locations, or collection events
Deposit / refund programs
Each system has pros and cons. Most curbside collection is mixed stream collecting plastics, paper, and metals together. Drop-off recycling centers with multiple collection bins can enable more separation of consumer recyclables. Current deposit programs can offer an incentive to recycle, however they must be implemented properly and only target specific consumer products. BPP will offer collection events and eventually refund programs through recycled products.
After collection, recyclables are sent to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to be sorted, cleaned, and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing. There are three MRFs that serve greater Columbus; Adept Recycling, Rumpke Waste Recycling, and WM Recycling. This Waste Management video shows the step-by-step process of how materials are processed once they reach a facility. BPP has designed a plastic washing system to help us process consumer waste for manufacturing.
More and more of today's products are being manufactured with recycled content. You probably already buy products with recycled-content and just don’t know it. Common household items that contain recycled materials include:
Laundry detergent bottles
Recovered glass is used in asphalt to pave roads and recovered plastic is used in carpeting, decking and park benches.
With BPP's injection, extrusion, and compression machines, we are able to manufacture new products from collected and processed plastics.
You’re not really recycling unless you are buying recycled, i.e., “closing the loop.” A recycled product is a product made in whole or in part from material recovered from the waste stream. Recycled-content products are comparable in price and quality to products made from virgin materials. Buying recycled content products creates long-term markets for recyclable materials.
When you shop, look for:
Products that can be easily recycled again.
Products that contain recycled content.
Look for products with the highest post-consumer content.