The term "recycling" is associated with the action of recovering recyclable material, sorting it and sending it for further processing. It allows materials that were originally considered "waste" or "rubbish" to be reintroduced into the market. The purpose of recycling is to find a solution to the problem of waste accumulation and to make use of waste, whether it is recovered directly or indirectly.
There are basically 2 types of plastics recycling: chemical recycling and mechanical recycling.
- Chemical recycling is a chemical process by which the initial monomers are obtained again. It is a "depolymerisation" and is currently under development.
- Mechanical recycling is only applicable to thermoplastics. It is a physical-mechanical process by which the plastic is washed, melted, filtered, obtaining pellets of the original material, which can be used as new raw material.
Plastics that are mechanically recycled come mainly from two main sources:
1. Plastic waste from manufacturing processes, i.e. the waste left at the foot of the machine, known as "scrap". This is generally easier to recycle because it is clean and homogeneous in composition. Some transformation processes (such as thermoforming and blow moulding) generate scrap, which is usually automatically recycled in the same factory and automatically.
2. Plastic waste from the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) stream.
Benefits of plastics recycling
- Preservation of non-renewable fossil fuels. Every tonne of plastic produced through recycling avoids the consumption of more than one tonne of gas and oil.
- Recovery of the existing value of waste, as well as avoiding its correct (landfill) or incorrect (landfill) disposal.
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
- Reduction of energy consumption ECONOMIC
- Transformation of waste into products with economic value.
- Reduction of land for final waste disposal.
- Reduction of imports of virgin polymers.
- Possibility to export recycled polymers. Recycled polymers are exported to several countries in the world: Brazil, USA, China.
- Generation of labour-demanding activities: o Direct labour employed in the recycling industry: trained industrial workers. o Indirect labour: transport, cleaning and other services. o Labour employed in waste recovery: urban waste collectors, cooperatives and companies.
- Generation of an environment with less waste, thus an increase in the quality of life.