Today, recycling seems like a “technological fix” for all of our disposal problems. According to common lore, anything that cannot be disposed should just be recycled. Recycling makes us feel good, but few of us know what actually happens to a plastic bottle after we drop it into a bin. In Singapore, 832,200 tonnes of plastic waste was generated in 2013 and the recycling rate is 11%.

Recycling a Plastic Bottle

  1. Plastic bottles and other recyclables are collected and sent to a recycling facility. The recycling facility will sort the recyclables into different categories.
  2. Since there are numerous types of plastics (widely divided into 7 types), not all are recyclable. Most bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (type 1 plastic or PETE) plastics that is recyclable.
  3. The bottles are then ground into chips or flakes. They are also washed to get rid of labels and residues.
  4. The plastics are dried, melted and formed into pellets which can be used for the manufacturing of new products.

The entire recycling process is illustrated in this video:

Obvious Benefits of Recycling

The most obvious benefit of recycling is that we would be able to avoid the numerous forms of pollution (marine, air and soil) outlined in the earlier posts. In addition, recycling provides opportunities to reduce oil usage, carbon dioxide emissions and the quantities of waste requiring disposal  However, we should also think critically if recycling is really the panacea to our plastic problem. The next post will adopt a critical perspective towards the entire recycling process.

Additional Readings:

How Is Plastic Recycled: Step by Step