How does recycling work? Maybe you’re wondering because you’re doing a school project, or maybe you’re a parent and you want some fun facts about recycling to share with your child. Whatever your reason, here are some recycling facts for kids!
Plastic Recycling Facts For Kids: Types Of Plastic
There are different types of plastic, and they’re recycled into different things. None of them have very catchy names, though.
- The transparent plastic that’s used for most drink bottles is called polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, and it can be turned into carpets or clothes.
- The harder, translucent plastic used for milk or detergent bottles is high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, which can be turned into playground equipment or plastic furniture.
- Bottle caps are often made of polypropylene, or PP (don’t laugh), which can be turned into cutting boards or cases for car batteries.
But what actually happens after you throw them away? Well...
All About Plastic Waste: Why Should We Recycle Plastic?
There are many reasons for recycling plastics but the main one is to reduce the environmental impact this material has.
If you throw a plastic bottle in the household waste, it’ll go to landfill to decompose. You’ll be waiting a long time for it to finish, though; plastic bottles can take about 500 years to break down completely. When your great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren are born, that bottle could still have another 250 years to go!
It’s much better to put it in the recycling, so it can be used to make something new instead of lying around doing nothing.
- Recycled plastic can make useful, everyday items! When PET plastic bottles have been melted down at the recycling centre, the melted plastic can be stretched out into polyester threads.
- Those threads are spun together and woven into cloth. If you have any clothes with ‘polyester’ on the label, some of the fabric might be made from a bottle you once drank out of.
- According to the British Plastics Federation, recycling just one plastic bottle can save enough energy to light a 10W LED bulb for 36 hours.
- Putting that bottle in the recycling bin really can make a difference!
Questions, Answers ... And More Plastic Recycling Facts
Burning questions about recycling plastic? You're in the right place!
Is Plastic Recyclable When It Has Bright Colours in It?
You can recycle coloured plastic packaging, but it can't be used to make white or translucent things so it is sometimes rejected by recycling centres. Clear or light-coloured packaging is therefore easier to recycle than coloured packaging, which is why the colour on most Persil packaging stays on the label to leave the bottles and tubs themselves white or clear. Any labels on plastic objects should just come off during the process of recycling; although if you like, you can always remove these at home before putting the plastic into your recycling box!
What Do You Do If Colourful Labels And Bottle Caps Are Still Attached To The Clear Plastic?
Once the clear plastic has been shredded in the recycling centre, it gets washed in water. Most of the bits of cap and label will float to the top and can be skimmed off. They’ll be recycled as well! For the whole story, you can find out more about the life cycle of a plastic bottle here.
Are Plastic Bottles Recyclable? What About Plastic Containers Used For Food?
Yes, but be careful: bits of food and grease can contaminate packaging and make it unsuitable for recycling. If the food and grease get onto other things in the recycling bin then it could contaminate those, too. You don’t have to scrub everything completely clean before you recycle it but give it a quick rinse and let it dry if there’s still food in there. If you don't think you can recycle your old drink bottle then ask yourself can you reuse plastic bottles instead? Recycling is only one way in which you can help look after the environment - reducing your waste and reusing items at home is also important.
How Many Times Can You Reuse A Plastic Bottle?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this as most plastic bottles are designed for single use. Although you can rinse and reuse them at home, the wear and tear could cause damage to the bottle. Any small cracks or scratches in the material can become a home for bacteria and germs. Where possible, use a reusable bottle for your drinks instead - that way you know it's safe.
Why Do We Recycle Plastic?
The simple answer is to help the environment. The average household can create a lot of waste without realising it and the production of new materials can also be a huge drain on resources such as water and energy. That's why it's important we all take steps to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as we can.
How Many Times Can Plastic Be Recycled?
Once or twice, usually. Sadly, plastic can't be recycled infinitely. Every time plastic is recycled, it gets a little bit more difficult to form into another useful item.
What Can Plastic Be Recycled Into?
This is the fun part: all sorts of things you see every day could have been a different plastic item in a past life. Polyester clothing, park benches, shopping bags, picture frames and even pencils are just a few of the objects you can make from recycled plastic. Plus, you can do a little recycling of your own at home: check out some of our fun recycling crafts to get you started!
Recycling’s important, but it’s also interesting. You’ve finished using the things in your recycling bin, but their journey is only just beginning. The next time you’re taking out the recycling, remember these fun facts and help others learn why we recycle plastic.