Where can plastic bags be recycled? (3 materials used to make plastic bags) 

In this article, the recycling aspects of plastic bags will be shed light upon. Other topics covered would be: 

  • Why should plastic bags be recycled?
  • What materials are used to make plastic bags?
  • What is the impact of plastic on life and the environment?
  • What is recycling and can plastic bags be recycled?
  • FAQs

Where can plastic bags be recycled?

Plastic bags may be recycled. For this, plastic bags can either be discarded in recycling bins (green-coloured) or can be transported to the nearest recycling centres. 

Recycling is the process of reusing waste by the processing of waste into new products. This leads to better waste management, resource management, and resource conservation. 

Plastic bags may be made from three types of plastics namely HDPE, LDPE, and bioplastics. The first two are non-biodegradable whereas bioplastics are biodegradable.

Recycling is an important process for non-biodegradable waste because otherwise, non-biodegradable waste will remain in landfills for many years.

Why should plastic bags be recycled? 

Simon Sinek once said, “People do not buy what you do, people buy why you do it.” Therefore, the article will commence by underlying the reason why plastic bags should be recycled. This, will also in a way, emphasise the importance and applications of recycling. 

Recycling is a process or practice of reusing materials with slight alteration and modification. This saves the production of products and materials from scratch. 

Recycling is an important process because it leads to a reduction in waste generation. Another advantage of recycling is that it delays the impact of non-biodegradable waste on the environment. 

Since recycling leads to the reusing of waste, there is decreased energy consumption. This is important because the majority of the world depends upon non-renewable sources of energy which are produced at the cost of GHGs emissions. 

These emissions lead to pollution, global warming, environmental degradation, and many other environmental anomalies. By recycling, it is opted that these effects are curbed at varying intensities. 

When there is recycling, there will be better waste management. This is because the waste which would have ended up in landfills will now be reused by consumers without compromising on the quality. 

This is a great move because already waste generation is at a grave threshold. If the waste generation is not reduced, it will impact the entire world and all the species that abide therein.

The following key points can be summarised as the benefits of recycling plastic bags: 

  • Energy conservation
  • Conservation of natural resources
  • Better waste management 
  • Employment prospects
  • Reduction of waste
  • Reduction of pollution

What materials are used to make plastic bags? (3 materials) 

This section will cover the materials used to make plastic bags. For this, it is essential to know the different types of plastics used in the marketplace. 

If we have a look around ourselves, we will see that the majority of the products are made from plastic material. Plastics are found everywhere. When plastic degrades, they convert to microplastics which are found in every corner of the world. 

Therefore, based on the increased use and applications of plastics, it is incumbent to guess that there will be more than one type of plastic used in the manufacture of consumer goods. 

It is studied that there are 7 types of plastics used to make various plastic products and goods. These are: 

  • PET
  • LDPE
  • HDPE
  • PVC
  • PC
  • PLA
  • Contemporary plastics 

All these categories of plastics have distinct qualities and because of it, they may be used for varying uses and applications. 

For example, PET is mostly used for bottles. Whereas, HDPE may be used for culinary items and food storage. 

You may wonder what types of plastics are used to make plastic bags. The answer is that HDPE and LDPE are mostly used to make plastic bags. 

Plastics are synthetic polymers that are made from repeating units (monomers) bonded together chemically. The monomers in the case of LDPE and HDPE are ethylene or ethene. 

HDPE expands to High-Density Polyethylene and LDPE expands to Low-Density-Polyethylene. These are the products of fossil fuel derivatives which are known to have negative impacts on the environment because fossils are a non-renewable resource, one that emits GHGs to the atmosphere. 

However, the story does not end here. Other than HDPE and LDPE, plastic bags may also be made of bioplastics. 

Bioplastics are made from plant-based materials. Examples of such materials include sugarcane, sugar beets and corn starch. 

The materials that may be used to make bioplastics include: 

  • Starch 
  • Cellulose
  • Protein 
  • Organic compounds
  • Aliphatic polyesters 
  • DNA from biomass 

Bioplastics may be classified into some categories which include: 

  • Protein-based bioplastics
  • Starch-based bioplastics
  • Cellulose-based bioplastics 

Bioplastics may be employed in making plastic bags. The main edge of these plastic bags will be that these bags will cause the least impact on the environment and life. 

What is the impact of plastics on life and the environment?

There is a lot of known environmental impact of plastics. This is because most plastics are made from petroleum-based products. 

These plastics are non-biodegradable and will persist for hundreds of years. As per research, plastics may persist for as long as a thousand years. 

However, a type of category called bioplastics is considered biodegradable because it is made of natural, plant-based materials such as sugarcane or cornstarch. 

You may wonder if bioplastics will be biodegradable. The assumption is partly correct. Bioplastics are indeed biodegradable because they are made from natural, plant-based materials. 

However, bioplastics may still take more than 3 years to fully degrade which is comparatively a long time, given the general context of biodegradable materials. 

Further, it is also emphasised that bioplastics may cause toxicity and environmental degradation despite being biodegradable. 

Plastics may convert into microplastics. Microplastics are found in every corner of the world and cause all sorts of problems and issues. 

Most plastics are made from products derived from fossil fuels. Owing to this reason, plastics are linked with the emission of harmful gases like greenhouse gases. 

GHGs examples may include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, ethylene, CFCs, sulphur oxides, and nitrogen oxides. These gases may cause a plethora of environmental problems like the greenhouse effect and global warming. 

This leads to other sets of environmental issues such as weather anomalies, pest attacks, deforestation, destruction of crop fields et cetera. 

Below are some of the major issues caused by plastics on the environment and health: 

  • Food security concerns
  • Species endangerment 
  • Infiltration into the food chains
  • Global warming
  • GHG emissions
  • Rise in temperature
  • A rise in sea levels
  • Melting glaciers
  • More floods
  • Loss of aquatic life
  • Accumulation of plastics
  • Disruptions of ecosystems
  • Pollution
  • Frequent droughts
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Insects attacks
  • Land degradation
  • Food shortage

The health complications raised by plastics also include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Neuro-toxicity
  • Neurological complications 
  • Necrosis
  • Skin damage
  • Eye allergies
  • Organ defects
  • Cancer
  • Mutation
  • Abnormality
  • Reproductive complications
  • Hormonal issues
  • Psychological complication
  • Depression

What is recycling and can plastic bags be recycled?

Recycling is a process in which waste is modified to be used as new materials. This comes with a bunch of amazing benefits. 

The materials that are commonly used for recycling include plastics, paper, glass, metal, electronics et cetera. 

Most contemporary consumer products can be recycled because these products are designed in a way to be reused again, adhering to the 3R approach and motives of the SDGs of 2030. 

The process and inclination of recycling offer many advantages to the environment. It is one of the best solutions to deal with the problem of non-biodegradable waste. 

If non-biodegradable waste is not recycled, it may end up in waste management systems (like landfills) where it may remain for hundreds of years. This will lead to a waste of resources and opportunities. 

A good example can be Econyl. Nylon is a non-biodegradable waste. If it is disposed of, it will either harm the aquatic life and the environment at a pretty grand level or will remain in a landfill for many years. 

If nylon is recycled instead, then the negative effects caused by the disposal of nylon can at least be delayed indefinitely. This is where recycled nylon (Econyl) enters the picture. 

Recycling leads to better waste management because the current waste generation is really problematic to society at large. Therefore, all the endeavours to curb and reduce waste generation are highly prized and recycling is one of those. 

Recycling also leads to better resource management because if products are recycled, they are not needed to be built from scratch. This saves time, labour, energy, and resources. While being good for the economy, it is also great for the environment. Therefore, it is a win-win situation for everyone. 

For example, it is estimated that if one ton of plastic bags is recycled, 11 barrels of oil may be saved, 

Regardless of these lucrative motives, the current rate of recycling is quite saddening. In the case of developed countries, less than 40% of recycling capacity is achieved, which means that 60% of the recycled waste is disposed of. 

Therefore, a lot needs to be done to make people aware and inclined toward green practices and principles including recycling. 

As per the recycling of bags, yes it is possible to recycle plastic bags because the materials used to make plastic bags (HDPE, LDPE, bioplastics) are recyclable. 

You can either discard your plastic bags in recycling bins or can transport your bags to the nearest recycling centres to get plastic bags recycled.

What is required is a wee bit of awareness and a call to action. The rest is up to the responsibilities of the administration. 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that recycling is the process of reusing waste by the processing of waste into new products. This leads to better waste management, resource management, and resource conservation. 

Plastic bags may be made from three types of plastics namely HDPE, LDPE, and bioplastics. The first two are non-biodegradable whereas bioplastics are biodegradable.

Recycling is an important process for non-biodegradable waste because otherwise, non-biodegradable waste will remain in landfills for many years.

Plastic bags may be recycled. For this, plastic bags can either be discarded in recycling bins or can be transported to the nearest recycling centres. 

Frequently Asked Questions:  Where can plastic bags be recycled?

Are plastic bags biodegradable?

Plastic bags made from bioplastics are biodegradable. Plastic bags made from HDPE and LDPE are not biodegradable. 

Which colour is for recycling bins?

Recycling bins are green-coloured bins. 

References

  • Achilias, D. S., Roupakias, C., Megalokonomos, P., Lappas, A. A., & Antonakou, Ε. V. (2007). Chemical recycling of plastic wastes made from polyethylene (LDPE and HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). Journal of hazardous materials, 149(3), 536-542.
  • Macur, B. M., & Pudlowski, Z. J. (2009). Plastic bags-a hazard for the environment and a challenge for contemporary engineering educators. World Trans. Engineer. Technol. Educ, 7(2), 122-126.
  • Steensgaard, I. M., Syberg, K., Rist, S., Hartmann, N. B., Boldrin, A., & Hansen, S. F. (2017). From macro-to microplastics-Analysis of EU regulation along the life cycle of plastic bags. Environmental Pollution, 224, 289-299.
  • Thiounn, T., & Smith, R. C. (2020). Advances and approaches for chemical recycling of plastic waste. Journal of Polymer Science, 58(10), 1347-1364.

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