Plastic is one of the most versatile manufacturing materials humans have come up with. Made from petroleum, plastic can take many forms. It can also be produced with different formulas to meet different needs. And once a plastic product has reached end-of-life, it can theoretically be recycled.
‘Theoretically’ is the key word here. While all plastics can be physically recycled one way or another, they cannot all be recycled economically. This is why so many end up in landfills. The plastics we do manage to recycle are combined with virgin plastic to make some pretty exciting products.
How many things can we make from recycled plastics? Too many to count. Below is just a sampling of real products you can buy right now. All are made from recycled materials, at least in part.
1. Active Wear
There is a big market right now for active wear made from recycled PET bottles. That’s right, all of those empty water and juice bottles that pose such problems for local waterways and municipal sewage systems can be turned into actual clothing. The process is pretty simple.
A manufacturer obtains baled bottles from a plastics recycler like Seraphim Plastics out of Memphis, Tennessee. After cleaning the bottles, they shred them before further reducing them to fine fibers. The fibers are then spun to create threads and the threads used to create fabrics. Those fabrics go on to become jogging pants, shorts, tank tops, and so forth.
2. Eyewear Frames
The eyewear industry is gradually turning its attention to recycled plastics as well. Recycled industrial scrap can be reduced to pellets or regrind ready to be mixed with virgin pallets for injection molding. It is just what eyewear manufacturers need. They can create frames for both prescription lenses and sunglasses using a combination of recycled and virgin material.
3. Games and Toys
Industrial plastic waste is ideal for injection molding because it is clean and generally not laden with pieces of metal and other contaminants. It can be easily ground and chopped into pellets. Those pellets are perfect for making games and toys.
For example, it’s fairly easy to transform recycled industrial plastic into dominoes. Just reduce the plastic waste, combine it with virgin plastic pallets, and load the mixture into an injection mold machine. In seconds you will have a full box of dominoes ready to go.
4. Throw Rugs and Mats
The same process that creates fabrics from recycled PET can be put to use to make throw rugs and mats. Manufacturers just make bigger threads for bigger weaves. The nice thing about PET thread is that it can be dyed virtually any color during the manufacturing process. The end result is an entire selection of brilliant colors that make for some rather beautiful throw rugs and mats.
5. Backpacks, Bags, Purses, Etc.
Have you ever come across a company selling eco-friendly backpacks and bags? If so, their products are likely made from recycled plastics. They do the same thing active wear manufacturers do – make their products from fabrics based in PET threads.
Choosing PET fabrics offers an advantage in that it is easier to make backpacks and bags water resistant. Being that the fabric is actually a plastic product, it doesn’t naturally absorb water like cotton or polyester. A plastic fabric with a tight weave needs very little external treatment to be water resistant.
We have barely scratched the surface in terms of the number of products we can make with recycled plastics. We have the knowledge and means to do so. The question is, do we have the will?