HDPE Can Be Recycled at Least 10 Times
New scientific testing has shown that PET and HDPE which comprise 97 percent of all plastic bottles on the North American Bottle market can be recycled and reused for new bottles at least ten times. The first set of practical tests was carried out by an ESE World B.V. in Europe. They said further recycling can be done under controlled circumstances — using a controlled process where each recycling was analyzed by external scientists to check for degradation.
It was also determined that based on average service life of each product, the total life of plastic material would be from 10 to 20 years. This means that sustainable production of from the same recycled plastic would have a life of 100 to 200 years! [i]
The company which has been in plastic recycling for three decades uses its cleaning and additive processes to make new resin with the same quality as virgin material. While metal and glass can be recycled many more times, increasing the life of plastic resin to this degree certainly could change the long-term impact of plastic litter.
Of course, the issue continues to be recycling rates. Consumers complain about plastic litter but fail to recycle large quantities. In 2016 1,112 million pounds of HDPE bottles were collected. This represents just one-third of the possible recovery rate. It dropped 1.1 percent from 2014.
The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and American Chemistry Council (ACC) say the primary barriers to increased plastic bottle recycling is that “too many consumers continue to be unaware of the significant usefulness, demand, and value of recycled plastics. . .“ More informed consumers and municipalities alike would, hopefully, increase this activity if they understood the impact on the littering problem.
Others who study the issue agree. See Report on Plastic Bottle Recycling 2017.
Meanwhile plastic bottle recycling rates are highly competitive with aluminum cans. We found that aluminum cans yield $0.25 – $0.35 per pound for those who take the time to pick them up and/or take them to a recycling center. Yet a PET water bottle can be as high $.50 – $0.53 or roughly double the price for clear, clean PET bottles. Add a dime for HDPE.
Solutions do exist for single-use packaging solutions, yet governments can get involved with the wrong solutions. California recently banned some plastic bags from some kinds of stores but allowed heaver ones that had to be paid for. The thinking was it would cause people to reuse those bags. Time will tell how successful it works. Meanwhile some cities try to cause social change by fining the restaurant or making use of straws illegal. Yet many types of plastic straws are also recyclable and are already with a plastic container!
Banning plastic containers would stop them from being made. But consumers have forgotten the dangers of glass breaking (think shampoo in the shower), the weight and difficulty of opening tin cans. The cost to ship glass is many times higher than plastic, increasing our food prices at retail. Plastic with all its problems has already proven its benefits.
When considering where our plastic littering problems really lie, this tends to make even single use containers look pretty good compared to the other kinds of plastic litter such as plastic mesh, sheet plastics, bags and tarps, not to mention the loss of all the great benefits of plastic.
The Confusing Plastic Mess A look at mixed signals and decisions about recycling.
The Problem With Plastic Microbeads Not all plastics provide value; plastic beads are one example.
Report on Plastic Bottle Recycling 2017 An update on the numbers behind recycling.