Plastics are a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic polymers which are generally made from monomers acquired from fossil fuels. Some newer plastics are made from biodegradable material but for the most part, plastics are synthetic organic polymers.
Plastics are an integral part of our modern lives, plastics pervade every aspect of our household and it’s almost impossible to eliminate plastic from our lives however tough it may be. Thus we need to make our best efforts to ensure we consume as little plastic as possible and recycle as much as possible to reduce waste.
This article will focus on how to properly recycle plastics at home. I will go over different types of recyclable plastics, how to process them before throwing them in the recycling bin, where you can find information about your local recycling programs, and how you can reuse your plastic containers to reduce waste.
Recycling plastics at home:
Most municipalities have programs where they pick up recyclables from households on specific dates of the week. If the recyclables are properly sorted and packed, then they will reach the recycling center. You can check your local government’s website for detailed information on what your options are.
Recycling at home is often overlooked, in our busy schedules we often do not pay attention to how we are to process the recyclables properly. The truth is most cities and municipalities have recycling guides for their citizens which detail how you should sort, clean, and store your plastic waste for recycling. These guidelines are mostly available online on your city council’s website.
In Australia, 10-20% of material thrown in the trash could have been recycled.
The scenario is not any better in most other countries, public awareness is crucial to ensure most recyclables do not go to waste.
Some cities accept all recyclables in one bag, which means, paper, cardboard, glass, aluminium, and plastics are put in one bin.
Some places, however, require the materials to be sorted based on types, so glass, paper, plastics, etc are to be kept in separate containers.
In either case, it is extremely important you know what plastics are recyclable and what aren’t, how you should process the plastic before throwing it away, and how to sort the plastics when required.
How to prepare plastics for recycling at home:
Firstly ensure that the container is as clean as can be. What helps make recycling easy is having designated bins for recycling.
If you already have bins where plastic containers should go, the process is much easier. If possible, keep separate bins for paper, glass, metals, and plastics.
The types of plastics you can recycle may vary from country to country, however, there are general items that are widely recycled. To better understand recycling let me explain the resin identification numbers.
You probably noticed most plastic containers have a number inside the recycling sign, this number denotes what type of plastic it is. It goes from 1-7 and each refers to a different plastic.
These resin identification numbers correspond to,
- Plastic number 1, Polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or PETE is commonly recycled and used to make water and soda bottles.
- Plastic number 2, High-density polyethylene or HDPE is used to milk jugs, soda bottles, shampoo bottles, and more.
- Plastic number 3, Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC is usually used to make pipes, flooring, etc.
- Plastic number 4, Low-density polyethylene, or LDPE is used to make plastic bags, beer packaging, etc.
- Plastic number 5, Polypropylene, or PP is used to make a host of products including food containers, reusable shopping bags, cosmetic and cleaning agent bottles, etc.
- Plastic number 6, or Polystyrene, or PS is used to make toys, polystyrene foam, plastic utensils, etc.
- Plastic number 7 encompasses most plastics that are not plastics 1-6. So any biodegradable plastic also falls in this category.
Most household plastics recycling programs do not require you to separate the plastics based on their number; they will, however, ask you to separate soft plastics and hard plastics. Most programs only accept hard plastic.
Examples of hard plastic,
- Milk jugs
- Soda and water bottles
- Jam or peanut butter jars
- Shampoo bottles
- Jars and containers of certain moisturizers (make sure it has no metal parts)
Soft plastics as the name suggests are soft. Meaning they can be scrunched up by hand. Examples include,
- Plastic bags
- Polystyrene foam
- Toothpaste or any kind of tubes
- Plastic wrapping paper
- Chip or other food packets
- Stretch films or food wrappings
Unfortunately, most soft plastics are not accepted by the general recycling programs. However, you can save up your polystyrene foam and drop it at your local supermarket. Supermarkets send their polystyrene foam waste to specialized facilities to be recycled. In most cases, it shouldn’t be an issue for them to take yours.
As for hard plastics, before you throw them in the recycling bin, check local guidelines. Many places may not accept difficult to recycle bottles like deodorant bottles or certain cleaning agent bottles.
As I mentioned before it’s crucial you clean the plastic before you recycle.
All food containers and packaging must be washed with detergent and soap. Food contamination causes the plastic batch to be thrown out in many cases.
You do not have to wash it extremely thoroughly, just enough to wash the food and grime away.
The same goes for cosmetic containers, rinse them before disposal.
For all containers check if all parts, the caps, and the body are made of recyclable plastic. If any part is not recyclable, discard it in the trash. Make sure all stickers, paper, and labels are removed from the bottles before disposal.
Do not take the cap off, the cap is recyclable. It’s better to keep the bottle in one piece. Bottle caps are recyclable in most cases, but loose ones are very small and hamper the sorting process in the recycling center.
For certain hard to recycle items like deo bottles or toothpaste tubes, there are certain mail-in or drop-off programs that accept such materials for recycling. You should check if any are available in your area. Mostly the cost of mailing has to be paid by you, but it’s a small price to pay if you can keep one less plastic item out of the landfills.
No matter how much we recycle and how efficient and attentive we are towards it, the best solution to our growing plastics problem is to reduce and replace it.
There are several methods by which you can reduce, repurpose, and replace your plastic waste
How to reduce household plastic waste:
There are many household items we use that cannot be recycled. Much of these are personal care products like toothbrushes, make-up wipes, cotton buds, etc.
We are living in a rapidly changing world where plastic pollution and fossil fuel consumption are rampant. There are companies, however, which are dedicated to the environment and are hard at work trying to design products for a sustainable future.
Here are 7 ways you can reduce your plastic waste drastically,
- Use a reusable water bottle whenever you leave the house. It’s always better if the bottle is made of metal, glass, or bamboo but to be honest, even a reusable plastic bottle beats drinking bottled water.
- Use reusable silicone-based cotton buds or cotton tips made of bamboo and organic cotton. The plastic part of the cotton bud is not recycled and just accumulates in the landfills. You can reduce a lot of waste by making this switch.
- We, women, use disposable makeup wipes to remove our makeup often. However, these wipes are not biodegradable or recyclable. They just accumulate in the landfills. Instead, using a cloth-based reusable make-up wipe will not only help the environment but will also save us some cash.
- Use Shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled shampoo and conditioner. Think of how many bottles of shampoo and conditioner did you finish this year? You could save that much plastic just by making the switch to bars. Many companies are competitively making sustainable personal care products that have the least carbon footprint. Give them a shot.
- Always carry a reusable shopping bag with you. Keep one in each handbag, or backpack you carry. Some shopping bags can be rolled into a lipstick-sized cylinder. You can even carry that in your pocket. Plastic shopping bags are rarely recycled, these accumulate in the landfills, I’m sure you’re aware of the havoc it causes on marine life. This switch will make a great impact on your plastic consumption.
- Bamboo-based toothbrush. We cycle through 4-5 toothbrushes a year. This may not sound like much but keep in mind these brushes aren’t recycled and they take hundreds of years to break down. So using a bamboo-based toothbrush will help curb the amount of plastic you throw out into landfills.
- One way you reduce your plastic waste is by shopping at local farmers’ markets. In supermarkets most products are pre-wrapped in plastic, be it stretch-film, polystyrene foam, or plastic boxes. In most farmers’ markets, you have the option to not take these plastics with your food. It’s a great way to reduce plastic waste.
Several blogs are dedicated to writing about alternatives to plastics. You can always check them out for more ideas.
One popular concept is to use plastic items like lotion or soda bottles in DIY projects. There are many tutorials online on how to creatively make use of used plastic. These are a great way to explore your creative side and reduce plastic thrown into the landfills at the same time.
It is however unrealistically optimistic to think that repurposing a few soda bottles will help the environment. You can only make so many pen-stands and flowering pots. A true solution is to efficiently recycle, make sure you check your local guidelines, and sort your recyclable plastics properly.
It also helps to reduce your plastic waste in sustainable ways which you easily incorporate into your daily routine.
There are DIY projects that may be more worth your time. There are open-source plastic recycling machines that can help you recycle plastic in your very home.
These are of course not for everyone, but if you’re up for the challenge, I wish you luck.
This article focused on how to properly recycle plastics at home. I went over different types of recyclable plastics, how to process them before throwing them in the recycling bin, where you can find information about your local recycling programs, and how you can reuse your plastic containers to reduce waste.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How to recycle plastic at home.
How can we recycle plastic at home?
Keep your plastics in a separate bin. Check your local guidelines on recycling and make sure you separate your soft plastics from hard ones.
How do you recycle plastic products?
Most cities pick up recyclables from every neighborhood if they are properly sorted and left in specific locations. Just make sure you separate paper, metal, plastics, etc. as required by the city.
What are the rules of plastic recycling?
For recycling household plastic products, there are three main rules, wash them well, keep the caps on, and remove all paper wrappings from the container.
How can plastic be reused at home?
There are many DIY blogs you can visit for this. For example, you can use your soda bottles to make pen-stands, flower pots, toothbrush holders, and so many more. You just need your imaginations.
How do you dispose of plastic waste at home?
Most soft plastics like cling wrap, food wrappers are not recyclable, so just throw them in the trash. Most hard plastics are, except deodorant bottles or toothbrushes for example. Check local guidelines to find out what’s recycled in your area. Put the recyclables in the recycle bin for municipal workers can pick them up.
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