Collection and Processing

Introduction to Collection

Collecting plastic is the first step in the recycling process. It may seem straightforward, but this step is repeatedly overlooked by people and businesses especially when the culture of single-use and fast rewards favors easy, often thoughtless, disposal. Other times people try to do the right thing by recycling their waste, but actually end up wish-cycling. This term refers to recycling something that you "wish" or think is recyclable but in reality cannot be recycled by your local MRF. Some common items that are wish-cycled include; plastic bags, food pouches, shredded paper, loose bottle caps, plastic containers, greasy pizza boxes, electronics and batteries, garden hoses, and PS #6 known as polystyrene

The problem with wish-cycling, or just improperly recycling, is that MRF's are designed to recycle specific items and when plastic bags or garden hoses enter the mix their machines can get damaged or stop entirely. 

Workers removing "tanglers" from recovery machinery. Credit Waste Management
Plastic contamination at WWRA in Chelsea, MI. Credit Noelle Bowman

Due to this specialization, many items on OSU's campus that we think are recycled actually end up in landfills. Ohio State does not recycle plastics #3 through #7, unless the plastic is bottle-shaped. Learn more about what Ohio State's recycling program here and learn about what you can recycle on-campus here. OSU recycles using the single-stream method, whereby recyclables including paper, plastic and metal combine together before being collected and processed at a MRF. Recently, OSU has been separating more of these recyclables as part of zero waste and composting initiatives on-campus.

Understanding what items aren't recycled on-campus allows BPP to bridge the gap. We use low-volume, general recycling techniques and machines to capture items that fall through our industrialized recycling systems. We have decided to focus on recycling #2 HDPE in the form of lids and non-bottle shaped containers, #5 PP from food containers and #7 PC/Other from 3D printer filament. View the two documents below to view our plastic collection plan.

Our Plastic Recovery Plan

We love our community and we need your help! Do you want to recycle some plastic that would otherwise be land-filled? Then feel free to drop off your plastics at our weekly meetings on Mondays at 6:00 pm in Enarson Room 245 or at our weekly labs on Fridays from 1-3:30 in Baker Systems Basement 090 .

BPP Plastic Recovery Plan.pdf
Plastic Collection Plan Research Review FINAL.pptx

Introduction to Processing

Once plastic is collected, the next step is to process it for recycling. This step is usually labor intensive requiring hands-on sorting of plastic from other waste and other plastic types. Additionally, the plastic must be cleaned of any food residue or other organic compounds like oils or dirt before being melted into a new product.