It is probably fair to say that much of our current lifestyle would not be possible if plastic had not been created in the last century and it is equally true that many of our current waste management problems are also because plastics are among the most durable of materials. But they can be recycled – it is just a matter of knowing which type of plastic can be recycled and what we should be doing with it.
Most people will be aware of the plastic coding system. The plastic coding system is a series of symbols that identify the most common plastic material used in the manufacture of a product or packaging. The symbols are usually embossed on the bottom of plastic containers and bottles. Their purpose is to assist in the sorting of the collected plastics by material type. Each symbol in the Plastics Coding System consists of a number from 1 to 7 inside a chasing arrows triangle. They do not necessarily indicate that the product can be recycled or is made from recycled content and the symbol should not be mixed up with the mobius loop or recycling symbol that we are all now familiar with. Locally we can recycle rigid plastic bottles and containers with the codes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7
While containers are usually made from a single type and colour of plastic, making them relatively easy to be sorted, a consumer product like a mobile phone may have many small parts consisting of over a dozen different types and colours of plastics. In such cases, the resources it would take to separate the plastics far exceed their value and the item is discarded. However, developments are taking place in the field of active disassembly, which may result in more consumer product components being re-used or recycled. Recycling certain types of plastics can be unprofitable, as well. For example, polystyrene is often not recycled because it is usually not cost effective. These unrecycled wastes are typically disposed of in landfills, incinerated or can used to produce electricity at waste-to-energy plants.
We have had a range of recycled plastic products for a number of years – ranging from outdoor furniture, fence posts, decking etc – often replacing wood products with the benefit that they are termite resistant.