DIY (Do It Yourself): Recycle your own plastic waste (part 1)

France consumes 4.5 million tons of virgin plastic resins every year. There, the recycling rate of plastics is only 22%. A significant part of the volume of plastic waste is not even collected for recycling. However, plastic is a malleable material, easy to recycle, colorable and light. Everyone should learn to reuse their plastic waste and learn the real value of this material.

So how do you value this raw material yourself? What use can we make of our plastic waste? In a series of two articles, I will present the successive to recycle it yourself.

 

  • First, recognize the different plastics …

There is a great diversity of plastics, some being recyclable and some not. Three great families stand out:

  • Thermosets:

The formation of a thermosetting plastic involves an irreversible polymerization which leads to a solid infusible and insoluble object and therefore not recyclable.

The preferred way of treating thermosets is energy recovery.

 

  • Thermoplastics:

The five main thermoplastics (LDPE, HDPE, PET, PP and PS) alone account for 65% of sales of virgin resins in France.

Under the effect of heat, thermoplastics soften and become soft. We can then give them a shape that they will keep while cooling. Transformation is reversible and renewable a large number of times, thermoplastics are easily recyclable and energy recovery or burial of these resins represents a loss of raw material.

 

  • Elastomers:

The best known elastomer is rubber. The recycling method, which involves vulcanization, is too complex to be done by yourself.

 

  • … and distinguish the recyclable ones!

    Source image: Precious Plastic / Dave Hakkens

 Only some thermoplastics can easily be recycled by non-specialists. You have surely guessed from the above that only thermoplastics are recyclable by the individual. Among the thermoplastics, there will be differentiated several resins that have particular qualities. In order to distinguish them, just take a look at the logo on the plastic.

According to Dave Hakkens, a Dutch designer known for having democratized the recycling of plastics, the optimal plastics for recycling by oneself are PET, PP, PS, ABS and PLA. He has also shared on the net the properties of each of these resins in order to consciously choose the right plastic for each new creation.

 

  • Then build a shredder :

    Source image: Precious Plastic / Dave Hakkens

Dave Hakkens also designed a plastic shredder and shared all of these plans on his Precious Plastic website.

The shredder is a necessary step in the recycling process because it makes it possible to obtain very small plastic pellets able to be melted again. Indeed, their small size makes it possible to use molds and to obtain a homogeneous casting.

The mixture of different types of granules makes it possible to obtain different colors and to combine the properties of each plastic.

 

 

Nevertheless, it is preferable to preserve plastic families so that the objects produced can themselves be recycled in the long term.

The next article in this series will focus on the injection, extrusion and compression steps. We will also present a sample of artifacts made from recycled plastics using this method.

It should be noted, however, that thermoplastics are not biodegradable and have a life span of several hundred years. The pollution generated by these plastics throughout their value chain invites to prefer the reduction of their production to simple recycling.

 

Sources:

Summary of the analysis of the value chain of plastic recycling in France, Publications 2ACR (Association Alliance Chimie Recyclage) [published 23/03/2015]

The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) http://www.plasticsindustry.org

Precious Plastic, Dave Hakkens https://preciousplastic.com

 

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