How Is Plastic Recycled: Everything You Need To Know

Plastic is among the most common and useful materials in modern times; we currently consume around 20 times as much as we did 50 years ago. By reusing and recycling products as much as possible, we can extend the life of plastics. But how is plastic recycled?

However, recycling is far more difficult, and the procedure of recycling plastics is far less obvious than the widely Googled cookie recipe. Let’s have a look.

How Is Plastic Recycled: Step By Step Guide


How to recycle Plastic
How is plastic recycled: just start with collecting plastic

The collecting of recyclables from our homes, companies, and schools is the first stage of the recycling process . For this step, it’s critical that everyone sorts their plastic correctly for pickup and recycles everything they can.


A municipal government collects this recycling either directly or through a waste management contractor.  It is delivered to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) or a Plastic Recovery Facility (PRF) for sorting. Before being transferred to these facilities, the material may be bulked at a waste transfer station.


At a Material Recovery Facility, the second stage involves sorting plastic from other materials (MRF). This debris may then be sent to a Plastic Recovery Facility (PRF) for further sorting into various plastic kinds.

The mixed recyclables will be mechanically loaded onto conveyer belts after being removed from the collecting vehicles.

Picking by hand

Sorting by hand is what manual picking entails. Non-recyclables and apparent contamination are eliminated during hand picking of big goods. The things removed are either processed further or discarded.

Sorting Machine using Optics

This is crucial equipment for sorting various sorts of plastic.

Using near infrared (NIR) readings, an optical sorting machine aids in the rapid and accurate identification of plastics. NIR sensors are sensitive devices that assess sample absorbencies at certain wavelengths.

In this case, determining the sorts of plastics based on their light absorption. After that, waste is separated using either upward or downward ejection methods. Initially, the material is loaded onto a rapid conveyor, which spreads it out into a single layer.

Because it helps disperse the material throughout the whole width of the conveyor, a vibratory feeder may be used to feed the material onto the belt. The NIR sensor scans it from a distance of around 12 inches.

Distinct polymers, such as PVC, exhibit different NIR spectral pictures that are well-known. This allows the scanner to determine the type of plastic used in the item. The different plastic kinds are separated in different directions using air jets.

Separator (sink-float)

A wet procedure known as a Sink-float separator is another key way for separating plastic components. Water and plastic recycling are poured into a tank, where high-density plastic sinks and low-density plastic floats. The plastics that have been separated will be collected for further processing.


After sorting, the material will be sent to a plastic reprocessor for the following step.

Additional sorting for quality assurance

Depending on how the material comes with them, certain reprocessors will have the equivalent of micro PRFs at the start of their operations to do further sorting. Even if they acquire previously sorted material, most facilities will sort it again to guarantee that any lingering contamination is eliminated.

To separate plastic by thickness, colour, size, and kind, optical sorting machines and sink float separators may be used. Plastic can also be re-run through magnets to remove any metals that were not entirely removed the first time.

Contaminants are removed by washing. Recycling of plastics

Recycle Plastic
Steps On How is plastic recycled?

Adhesives, residual trash left in containers, food waste, and labels may all be removed by washing. These must be eliminated, and the material must be as clean as possible, since they might impact the recyclate’s quality.

People’s actions at home can make a major effect at this time. Simply washing the plastic fast to remove some of the food or other things before they dry and stick more firmly helps to guarantee that the entire recycling system runs more smoothly.

Depending on the contaminants and processors, the plastic may go through a variety of cleaning processes during the process. To begin, there is the friction washer, which is the most prevalent type of washer because to its low cost of operation and performance.

Friction washers remove impurities from plastic by using heat, kinetic energy, and pressure. Rotary washers employ a heated caustic solution to remove oils and food particles, and they may also be used as a pre washer depending on the degree of contamination.

Plastic products are shredded or ground into smaller pieces in the shredding/grinding process.

Plastic shredding or grinding into tiny flakes is an important stage in recycling.

Shredding machines grind the cleaned and sorted plastic into smaller bits.

Depending on the shredder’s categorization and procedures, plastic is shredded in a variety of ways. Hammer Mills, for example, are used to pulverise polymers in a rotational drum with the use of swivelling hammers. Shear Shredders, for example, cut polymers to industry size specifications using rotary cutters and guillotines.


Additional sorting may be necessary to assure the production of a pure stream of material.

Plastic is melted and extruded into new pellets in the process of extrusion.

Plastic recycling comes to a close at this stage.

The process of melting plastic and driving it through an extruder is known as extrusion. To make pellets, the plastic is chopped as it exits the extruder.  Pellets are sold to businesses that make them.

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