Home > Energy Saving & Recycling > Recycling Plastic Wrappings

Recycling Plastic Wrappings

By: Helena Stratford - Updated: 21 Apr 2012 | comments*Discuss
Plastic Label Landfill Wrapping Recycle

One of the most ubiquitous of packaging forms in the UK today has to be plastic wrappings. Love it or hate it, plastic is cheap, convenient, lightweight, durable and flexible. In fact it’s grown in popularity so much that today we’re using 20 times more than we did in the 1960’s.

And yet?

Plastic is probably the most difficult and complex of materials to recycle and is the most evident of materials when it comes to what is littering our environment.

So how do we combine the usefulness and desirability of plastic packaging with making sure we protect our environment?

Plastic Waste

Each year in the UK we collectively produce three million tonnes of plastic waste, of which more than half is made up of packaging. Plastic wrappings actually make up about 11 percent of our household waste, 40% of which is plastic bottles - but still only a relatively small percentage is recycled.

Labelling For Plastics

One of the difficulties with recycling plastic wrappings is that there are many different forms of plastic. Not all can be recycled in the same way and therefore need to be treated very differently. This means that ideally, plastic wrappings should be pre-sorted at source into types. This can be difficult for consumers and expensive for recycling centres.

At the moment, there is no legislative requirement for UK manufacturers to label packaging with the type or grade of plastic used, which makes it more complicated for the consumer to sort their waste. However, the USA has introduced symbols that clearly class plastics by number and which have also been adopted here.

Different Types Of Plastic

Plastics are generally rated as degradable, biodegradable, or compostable which largely denotes the chemical make-up, density, and pliability of the material depending on its form and function. However, these terms are technical misnomers, as most plastics would take hundreds of years to break down if placed in landfill tips.

The six most common types are:

  • Polystyrene – ‘Styrofoam’ cups, meat trays, some egg boxes
  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – tubing, plastic bags (‘poly bags’), dispensing bottles
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE) - fuel tanks, toys, crates, cleaning fluid bottles
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – used for drinks bottles
  • Polypropylene – food ready meal trays, margarine tubs, nylon-type flooring
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – food packaging, flexible containers, films, and trays

Improvements In Recycling Plastic Wrappings

Although plastic is still difficult to recycle, and re-using it is a far more environmentally friendly option, a huge investment is currently being made by companies to reduce their plastic packaging waste, or to introduce new technology which is able to cope more easily with recycling.

One such initiative is the Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) which is already operational in other countries and may be introduced in Britain soon. The RVM is a fully automatic facility whereby plastic can be collected, sorted, graded, and recycled as a one-stop option.

What You Can Do To Recycle Your Plastic

  • Sort your plastic waste ready for kerbside collection or take it to your nearest recycling centre
  • Re-use plastic containers and bottles wherever possible
  • Cut down your consumption of bottled drinks or choose glass bottles when you buy it
  • Keep and re-use plastic bags and refuse when offered one in a shop
  • Where possible buy your fruit and vegetables loose rather than in plastic boxes

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    I ordered the laminate flooring from UK Flooring Direct Limited online and fitted in March 2018.After that i noticed very…
    29 November 2018
  • Lenard
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    The person that resides in the apartment above my apartment about 2 weeks ago seems to be making something that has caused…
    24 November 2018
  • J M
    Re: Negative Effects of Sky Glow
    Honestly, this is extremely helpful to know especially because so many people in the world don’t pay attention to these things…
    26 October 2018
  • SeaSiderSeth
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    Hello. I'm the premises manager of a tv company in Clapham and recently Thames Water built 4 or 5 large storm drains all…
    15 October 2018
  • tolu
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    Hello i have a neighbor who lives behind my daughter and me he have Hogs there and this mail is excruciating it makes you…
    19 September 2018
  • Ben
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    Hello, we are in a new build semi detached house. We moved in at the same time as our neighbours last November. However over…
    8 September 2018
  • PollutionIssues
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    Lou - Your Question:What can I do about local farmer spreading putrid slurry/ fertiliser over fields near me? On a warm…
    14 August 2018
  • puppy
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    There’s a house being built across the field to our house. There is a constant smell of diesel which is making me and my…
    6 August 2018
  • Lou
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    What can I do about local farmer spreading putrid slurry/ fertiliser over fields near me? On a warm summer’s evening the…
    1 August 2018
  • savita sharma
    Re: Complaining About Smell Pollution
    Hi twice or thrice a week my neighbour do water intake in thire silver that produce horrible smell from his house its…
    27 July 2018