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J&B Recycling Knowledge

Plastic Packaging Recycling and Disposal

Plastic Packaging Recycling and Disposal

Plastic packaging is everywhere in our daily lives. As a convenient and adaptable material, it's played a pivotal role in revolutionising how goods are packaged, transported, and preserved. However, as environmental concerns escalate, the focus has sharply turned to the responsible recycling of these materials.

Background of Plastic Packaging

The origin of plastic packaging can be traced back to the early 20th century when its lightweight and durable properties were recognised. Since then, it's witnessed exponential growth, primarily due to its malleability, longevity, and barrier properties. From preserving the freshness of food to ensuring product safety during transportation, plastic packaging has been an indispensable solution in various industries.

Plastic is a synthetic or semi-synthetic material derived primarily from petrochemicals, which come from non-renewable resources like crude oil and natural gas. Essentially, plastic is composed of large polymer chains, which are molecules made from repeated subunits called monomers, usually hydrocarbons. While its versatility and durability make plastic a widely favoured material, these very characteristics also contribute to its environmental challenges.

Plastics can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose, leading to accumulation in landfills and natural environments. The non-biodegradable nature of most plastics means they persist in the environment, often breaking down into microplastics which can infiltrate ecosystems, affecting wildlife and potentially entering our food chain. The production and disposal of plastic contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, as plastics are derived from non-renewable fossil fuels, their continued production is not sustainable in the long term, leading to depletion of crucial natural resources and exacerbating climate change. This makes recycling plastic packaging all the more important.

Different Types of Plastic Packaging

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): Widely used for beverage bottles, PET is celebrated for its clarity and moisture barrier properties.

HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene): Found in detergent bottles and milk jugs, HDPE is renowned for its stiffness and strength.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): Used for cling films and blister packs, PVC offers flexibility and durability.

LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene): Common in grocery bags and shrink wraps, LDPE is valued for its ease of processing and strength.

PP (Polypropylene): Regularly spotted in Margarine tubs, food trays, car parts, and dense packaging, PP boasts high melting and chemical resistance.

PS (Polystyrene): Expanded polystyrene is widely used for packaging materials and disposable food containers (e.g., yoghurt pots and vending cups). It has excellent insulation properties, making it a popular choice for coolers and insulating hot beverages or foods.

Why Recycle Plastic Packaging?

Recycling plastic packaging is vital for numerous reasons. Foremost, it reduces the strain on our already limited natural resources, as producing new plastic requires more energy and raw materials than recycling existing plastic. Moreover, the disposal of unrecycled plastic can culminate in landfills, where it can persist for hundreds of years, generating greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change. By recycling, we not only conserve resources but also minimise environmental harm, protect biodiversity, and promote a sustainable circular economy.

Challenges of Recycling Plastic Packaging

Recycling plastic presents a myriad of challenges. Firstly, there are multiple types of plastics, each with distinct chemical compositions. Not all recycling facilities are equipped to handle every type, making sorting a critical and often cumbersome step. Contamination is another significant challenge; plastics mixed with food residue, other materials, or different kinds of plastics can disrupt the recycling process. Additionally, many plastics, particularly single-use items, are blended with additives or consist of multiple layers of different materials, making them tough to recycle. Over time, the quality of plastic can degrade with each recycling cycle, especially where contamination is present, eventually leading to a lower-grade material with limited usability. Economic challenges also persist; in some cases, the cost of recycling can exceed the production of new plastic, particularly when oil prices are low. Finally, the lack of standardization in plastic labelling and collection systems across regions can further hamper efficient recycling efforts.

How can J&B Recycling help with plastic packaging?

J&B Recycling can recover and recycle all of the plastics listed above, including films, shrink wrap, bags, plastic bottles, plastic packaging, drums, IBCs and bulk bags. These can come from a variety of sources including retail, warehousing, plastic parts manufacturers and Local Authority kerbside and bringbank schemes.

A significant amount of the plastic food packaging that J&B Recycling recover is reprocessed back into food-grade plastic materials. Once J&B have recovered, sorted and or baled the plastics they are then sent to re-processors for further sorting, shredding, washing, melting and pelletising, or flaking or so that they can remoulded into new products.

J&B Recycling are based in the North of England. Our commercial collection services operate from the Scottish Borders down to Hull and North Yorkshire. Our main areas for collecting and processing commercial waste include Teesside (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton), Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, North Tyneside and Northumberland. Get in touch for more information and to request a quote.

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