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How many times can plastic be recycled? - OneSharedEarth
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0 votes
Some plastic is recyclable but how many times can it be recycled? So if I toss a plastic item into the recycling bin, will it definitely be recycled into something equivalent?
in Plastic by (550 points)
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2 Answers

+2 votes
It is a tough question to answer as different sources provide different information. Basically in theory, plastics could be recycled many times. However it is extremely hard to retrieve the plastics in the pure stream after use. Therefore most of the plastics are only being recycled once or  downcycled into non recyclable items like fabrics. Here is a full list of plastics and what are they being recycled/downcycled into:

PET (used for water bottles, food containers, oven able film) turns into: fibres, drink bottles
PVC (used in plumbing pipes, cleaning products bottles, medical products) turns into: pipes, packaging
PP (used in condiment bottles, medicine bottles, bottle cups, tupperware) turns into: auto parts, industrial fibres, pots
HDPE (used in milk containers, wheelie bins, juice bottles) turns into: recycling bins, pallets
LDPE (used in shopping bags, food containers, gloves) turned into: plastic bags, dispensing bottles
PS (used in disposable cups, cutlery, food boxes, packaging foam) turns into: pots, tubs, trays
Miscellaneous (used in baby bottles, CDs, storage containers, number plates) turns into: car parts, pallets
by (340 points)
+1 vote
My research suggest that most plastics become worthless after 3-5 rounds of downcycling. I say downcycling because plastic is not recycled into similar products like metal and glass. It is often downcycled into other products like carpet, fleece, street furniture. Even though it may be possible to downcycle plastic a number of times, it doesn't mean that it will happen. Most waste industries are profit based and if there is no market for downcycled plastic goods or it's cheaper to landfill / incinerate the plastic then that is what will happen.
by (520 points)
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