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Circular Economy

How is plastic waste recycled?

15 de July de 2022

Recycling has become a widely discussed topic in the course of the last few years. As the population has grown, so has waste generation, much of it plastic. The environment can not withstand this for a long time, nor can it reverse the situation by itself. For this reason, recycling is essential to reducing the volume of this waste that pollutes our cities, forests, rivers and oceans, and to reducing the exploitation of natural resources.

But, after all, how does the plastic recycling process work?

 

Generally speaking, the recycling of plastic waste has 3 stages:

 

Collection and separation → the collected materials go through a sorting process, being separated by material composition (PET, HDPE, PP, etc.).

 

Revalorization → here, the separated material is processed and becomes raw material for new applications.

 

Transformation → finally, the recycled resin becomes a new product.

 

 

What are the different types of recycling?

 

Mechanical Recycling

 

Mechanical recycling is the most common type. It consists of transforming post-industrial and post-consumer plastic waste into small granules ready to be reused in the production of new products.

 

In order for this to happen, the material goes through the stages of shredding, washing and reprocessing. In this last phase, the waste undergoes a change in its shape caused by temperature, but its chemical properties are preserved.

 

 

Chemical Recycling

 

Chemical recycling, on the other hand, is a more elaborate method, but one that presents some operational advantages, such as less need for careful sorting, as it is a process more tolerant to the presence of impurities.

 

This type of operation reprocesses the plastic into a basic petrochemical feedstock that is ideal for producing high-quality solutions. It is also worth mentioning that chemical recycling is a more expensive process and requires large amounts of waste to be economically efficient, so it is still a less used method.

 

 

Energy Recycling

 

Finally, we have energy recycling, which consists of transforming plastic waste into thermal and electrical energy through incineration, taking advantage of the calorific power present in the plastic.

 

One of the positive points of this method, besides being an energy matrix, is to serve as a productive alternative for the disposal of waste that could end up in landfills or dumps. This model is used by more than 30 countries in the world, in which 150 million tons of garbage are treated every year in 750 recycling plants, generating 10,000 MW of energy used for various purposes. In Brazil, however, energy recycling is not yet in practice.

 

 

The PET case

 

The recycling of PET, a material widely used in the production of beverage bottles and packaging of cleaning products, is a success story. The material is valued, arousing the interest of the entire production chain, from collectors to recyclers and transformers.

 

But the PET recycling process has its peculiarities: after collected, it is necessary to remove the labels and caps; the bottles are separated by color before being crushed; the material is washed, dried and decontaminated before being melted and processed, then be melted and transformed into granules. From there, these granules can be used to create a new product, made entirely from recycled material, or they can be combined with virgin resin to produce the new solution.

 

 

How can you contribute to recycling?

 

By separating your waste before disposal. In this way, you help to reduce the chances of contamination of the discarded material, which is one of the great impairments to recycling operations. The separation also facilitates the work of collectors and cooperatives, making the process more agile and assertive.

 

Recycling at Valgroup

 

In addition to being one of the largest plastic producers and processors in the world, Valgroup also stands out for being a great recycler and for solutions produced partially or entirely with recycled material, such as the Naked bottle, created in partnership with Danone for the water brand Bonafont, made 100% from recycled PET resin, among other solutions that you can check on our website, blog, and social networks.