Four Surprising Facts About Plastics Recycling

Young girls recycling on Earth Day

Sure, you know that you can recycle a lot of your plastics. But as technology advances, plastics recycling is evolving, so it can be tricky keeping up with the progress … even for the avid recycler.

Here are four things about plastics recycling you may not know:

  • Recyclers want your caps and lids: Don’t throw your soft drink bottle caps in the trashcan. Or your butter tub lids, either. They’re not trash! Bottle caps and container lids are made with valuable plastics, and recyclers want them, too. Simply put caps and lids back on bottles and containers and toss them in the recycling bin together. Recyclers typically shred them all into flakes and then submerge the flakes in water. Bottle flakes sink and the other flakes float, making it easy to separate the plastics for recycling. Optical scanners and other technologies can help, too.
  • Used packaging isn’t only recycled into new packaging: While used plastic packaging sometimes is recycled to make new packaging, this isn’t always the case. Used plastic milk jugs, for example, often are recycled into playground equipment, patio furniture, cooking tools, and more. And plastic yogurt containers can become reusable food storage containers, floor rugs, tableware, and other cool products. Which brings us to…
  • Bottles can become clothing: Many clothing designers today use fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles to make a variety of clothing, from fancy dresses to comfortable T-shirts to rugged fleece jackets to board shorts. The bottles are cleaned, shredded, heated, and then stretched into fine threads that are woven into soft, durable fabrics. These recycled fabrics can be manufactured with different weights and textures to provide a range of design options.
  • Plastic bags and wraps can be recycled at thousands of locations: It’s easier than ever to recycle dry cleaning bags, food wraps, food storage bags, grocery store bags, product wraps, and more. Clean and dry bags and wraps are collected for recycling at more than 18,000 grocery and retail stores nationwide—but usually not curbside. Manufacturers turn these plastics into new bags and other products—in fact, your used plastic bag could become part of your new backyard deck.

Check out our Plastics Recycling page to learn more.