When you walk into a store, you will notice that there are a lot of different types of plastic packaging being used.
This ranges from the film around fruits and vegetables to the plastic containers which store many perishable items. When the matter of recycling this plastic arises, it depends on what type of plastic it is.
Some classes are easier to recycle and can be done at home while others can be complicated, even in large recycling plants.
Types of plastic used in food packaging
The main types of plastic used in packaging are as follows:
This is mainly used to make plastic bottles and some microwaveable food containers. They can be recycled to produce new plastic containers, moulds in engineering and polyester textiles.
HDP is a much stiffer type of plastic. It can be used for milk jugs, bleaches, and detergent. HDP is also used in plastic bags and cable sheeting. After recycling, it can be used as flowerpots or for new containers.
Mainly used in clamshell packaging but it can also be used for heavy duty plastic packaging. When it is recycled, it can be used in semi-flexible material such as garden hoses, floor tiles, and mats.
It is a thin plastic film which is used for coating paper cups, bread bags, and food cartons. After recycling, it has a variety of uses such can lawn chairs, heavy duty garbage bags, and trash cans.
This is a hard and rigid plastic which is used for heavy duty and resilient packaging of food and medicine. When recycled it can be used in automobile parts and storage bins.
More commonly known as Styrofoam, it is mainly used as containers for food. When it is recycled, it is used for electrical plates, casings for cameras and plastic mouldings.
How is the plastic recycled?
Technically speaking, all types of plastic which are used in food packaging can be recycled. In reality, this is a much more complicated process.
The easiest type of plastic to recycle is plastic bottles. There is a large volume of them, and they are relatively easy to sort. They are usually made of one of 4 types of plastic which are most commonly found. It can easily be collected, sorted and then reprocessed.
For lighter plastics such as films and plastic bags, a tremendous amount of them needs to be collected for it to be economically feasible.
These plastics films are also made from various types of plastics combined, which means that it becomes more expensive to sort and reprocess than other plastics.
The same applies to plastic food containers. They contain multiple layers, which costs more to sort and then recycle to other plastic products.
In conclusion, most of the plastic used in food packaging can be recycled and reused for various purposes.
However, it may not be economically feasible for recycling plants to do so for plastics made from a variety of different plastics and ones which are relatively thinner and lighter.