How many times can plastic be recycled?

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Plastic is one of the most common materials in the world. It comes in various forms, and it’s used for everything from food containers to carrier bags. As such, plastic recycling has taken centre stage over the last decade or so. We’re generating far too much plastic waste, and this is releasing too many carbon emissions and decimating our oceans. There’s plenty to discuss regarding plastic recycling, but today’s focus is on how many times a piece of plastic can be recycled. In truth, the answer varies depending on the type of plastic in question. But, we’ll explain everything in this article:

How many types of plastic can be recycled?

Over 50 different types of plastic exist, but only 7 or so of these can be widely recycled. Thankfully, these 7 plastics are usually the ones we come into contact with the most. The list is as follows:
PVC: polyvinyl chloride, a diverse plastic that’s used in guttering, construction materials, and much more.
uPVC: the unplasticised version of PVC. This is mostly used in window and door frames which are used on most modern houses.
PET:  Polyethylene terephthalate is what most drinks bottle are made out of. Water bottles and PET products are probably the most widely recycled type of plastic as well.
HDPE: another rigid plastic that’s used for many household products and goods. More often than not, this material is most widely recycled as the material is in demand from manufacturers to make more household items.
PP: polypropylene is primarily used in making business and household items such as boxes, crates, containers, buckets and flower pots.
LDPE: Low Density Polyethylene, this is what makes up plastic bags and rings for drinks cans. They are the most wasted plastic out there and pollute the oceans despite the fact they can be recycled.
PS: polystyrene can technically be recycled, or at least re-used for a different purpose. More often than not, it will be broken down and used as insulation in homes. Polystyrene may be used for items such as food packaging.

What Types Of Plastic Can Be Recycled [Infographic]

What types of plastic can be recycled infographic

How many times can these plastics be recycled?

The majority of the time, all of these plastics can only be recycled once from problems breaking down materials during the recycling process. At the recycle plant, the plastic is shredded and melted which breaks down the plastic polymer chain. If you’re lucky, they might be able to survive one more recycling, but that’s about it. One common misconception is that plastic can be recycled over and over again. However, this is usually spewed as a justification to continue manufacturing plastic products rather than switching to different materials.
The fact is that plastics lose their quality when they’re recycled a number of times. This is why most plastics get broken down and used to make up parts of other products – like clothing to reach a circular economy. If you recycled a plastic bottle and used it to create another plastic bottle, then it would be of worse quality. The more you recycle plastic, the worse it gets. As such, the majority of plastics only get recycled once and then used in other products that can be used for longer and avoid going into landfill sites. It’s essential to be aware of the different types of plastic as you need to know what products you can recycle or not. Also, be wary that recycled plastics often won’t be able to be recycled again.

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