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Rayda Plastics Ltd

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HOW DOES THE RECYCLING PROCESS WORK?

23/04/2020

Recycling plastics has become normal practise in the modern world and this is only benefitting the plastics industry.

We recycle and purchase recyclable products every day, but how does the process actually work?

Collection of Plastics

The first stage requires the plastic waste to be collected and taken to the local recycling or sorting centre. This is completely dependent on individual businesses, regions and whether the plastic has been disposed of correctly by members of the public.

In reference to the different collection services available, most areas around the UK have a recycling team that collect recycling from homes and businesses on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

If this is not the case, there are recycling collection points available to the public, commonly found in supermarket car parks or other large communal areas.

Collection points make it extremely easy for people to correctly dispose of their plastic waste, 24 hours a day, so there is no excuse not to recycle.

Sorting the Plastics

While a lot of plastic products are widely recyclable, some do still contain components that must be discarded in the general waste, the black plastic that a microwave meal comes in for example.

The sorting stage is in place to ensure that any non-recyclable pieces of plastic or other materials are separated, and each type of plastic is divided into groups to be recycled as efficiently as possible.

Sorting machines separate the different plastic materials based on a range of properties which usually depend on each recycling facility. Here are some of the ways these machines sort plastics:

Type of plastic Colour How it was made It’s important that the correct analysis and process is carried out; otherwise, this could impact the efficiency of the entire process and require the plastics to be re-sorted.

The plastics are then put through a laser sorting machine where a light beam detects the difference between clear and green plastic.

The Washing Stage

Once all the plastics have been sorted into the relevant categories, everything is washed, this is to stop contamination and remove any chemicals.

Products like food packaging benefit greatly from this stage before being made into a new product as many people dispose of their waste with small amounts of food still inside containers and tins.

As for all plastic products in general, the washing stage gets rid of any labels or other adhesives on the product to ensure the highest quality can be met for the new product.

Metal detectors are often used to get rid of any metal that may still be in the mix. If any non-recyclable material goes through and into the final product it can cause structural weakness in the product.

Shredding and Resizing

All the washed plastic is then put on different conveyor belts depending on the plastic types, all of these will then be put through larger shredders.

Tougher plastics are put through heavy-duty machines, separate from other plastic and are all shredded into tiny pellets. Once shredded, the pieces of plastics are washed again for reassurance.

Classification of Plastics

Many people are unaware of this stage, but it’s is highly important to work out the quality of the shredded material and whether it’s going to be useful and even safe, for further use.

Qualities like density, air classification and melting point are tested during this stage.

Density is tested by floating the plastic particles in a large water tank, to see which float and which begin to sink.

Air classification is recorded by dropping the particles into a wind tunnel to see which elements fly higher or lower.

Plastics can only be recycled 2-3 times as they eventually lose their quality and are no longer useful. The classification process helps to identify whether certain materials are able to be recycled into a new product or not, and what they could be potentially used for in the future.

Compounding and Plastic Extrusion

The plastics have been sterilised, shredded and sorted appropriately, so they can now be melted at a high temperature and made into new products.

Quite commonly, before this stage occurs, companies directly purchase the shredded materials in bulk and take care of the extrusion process themselves.

The plastic segments are melted and smashed together into what we call pellets, that can be made into new products.

Other Processes

Depending on the types of plastic, the recycling laws and regulations in a particular location, there are some other parts to the process, that are put in place when particular plastics are being recycled.

Distributed recycling is where technical devices called recyclebots are used to distribute and recycle each type of plastic.

Chemical recycling describes the process where polymers (a chain of plastics) can be converted back to monomers (a single unit of plastics). This is rising in popularity and is slowly being introduced to different companies.

Here at Rayda, all of the products that we produce are recyclable, and we avoid using single-use plastics as much as possible. To find out more about our recyclable products, you can contact us here.

For more information on  HOW DOES THE RECYCLING PROCESS WORK?  talk to  Rayda Plastics Ltd

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