Recycled materials (plastic) and things that are made of it - Mikacycle ♻

Recycled materials (plastic) and things that are made of it - Mikacycle ♻

Cool products made from recycled plastic

Plastic has ultimately infiltrated every aspect of our lives, but fortunately, in the majority of its applications, it can be swapped for recycled materials. As governments and companies continue to make commitments to incorporating an increased amount of recycled plastic in their products, the types of applications for recycled plastic continue expanding as well, but it does depend on what plastics can be recycled because of the manufacturing process and what plastic is made out of. First raw materials are refined into ethane and propane, which are then heated into ethylene and propylene and then combined to create different polymers (i.e PET, PP, HDPE, LDPE, etc.). To allow for the reuse of plastic, an item must be processed with the same polymer types. This can become a challenge depending on the type of collection and sorting infrastructure in place as well as the source of plastic waste.

Recycled ocean plastic can also be more difficult to come by because if it already has been exposed to the ocean and sunlight, it can degrade rapidly, making it very difficult to recycle. Nevertheless, there are a variety of items that can be recycled such as shampoo and detergent bottles, packaging trays, and beverage bottles among others.

What can plastic bottles be made into? First we need to understand what recycled PET is, as it is one of the few polymers that can be recycled back into the same form, serving as the best example of a closed recycling loop. For this reason it is important that brands take into account where to sell plastic bottles and the kind of infrastructure in place to allow for their recyclability. Most plastic bottles are made from PET and are most commonly recycled into new bottles or outdoor furniture, clothing, playground equipment, carpeting, and automobile parts.

What products can we get

Many needs are being met by reusable materials as demand continues to grow. Clothes made from recycled plastic have become increasingly popular when it comes to activewear with brands like the Girlfriend Collective, selling products made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing lines to create their activewear line. Similarly, brands like Adidas with their well known plastic bottle shoes and the Indian startup Thaely, manufacture shoes made out of  recycled materials. Thaely sprang from an exercise to address the 100 billion plastic bags used each year. As more stores have a a bag tax, reusable bags made from recycled materials have become the norm in many places.

Plastic things are everywhere we look but innovative thinking has shown that there are just as many things to make out of recycled materials instead. Some other examples of recycled materials finding new applications include food packaging, although it is a complicated process and requires extensive processing to be deemed safe for food contact. However, other examples of recycled products previously not recycled at a high rate becoming more common include plastic products used in agriculture being converted to new agriculture products as well as into a variety of other products, such as outdoor furniture.

Typical materials that are used for outdoor furniture include greenhouse covers, irrigation pipes, rain reservoirs, and mulching film. A company in the United States, Revolution, has found success as a recycler and manufacture of film, bags, and tubing for the agriculture sector. A special feature in the business plan is that they then recover these same products to clean and process them into post-consumer recycled plastic that is then used to manufacture the same products once again. Revolution recovers and reprocesses more than 150 million lbs a year and is able to manufacture products that contain up to 97% post-consumer recycled plastic. For example, it picks up used drip tape, cleans it, and produces recycled PE resin for other drip-irrigation products.

Other innovators in the field include Nzambi Matee, an entrepreneur based in Nairobi that founded the startup Gjenge Makers Ltd., which created recycled plastic building materials amd turns waste into bricks that are stronger than concrete. As she states, “plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. the potential is enormous, but its afterlife can be disastrous.’. She obtains the plastic waste for free from packaging factories and also purchases it from various recyclers.  By partnering with manufactures of plastic bottle tops and seals in the beverage and pharmaceutical industries, they provide them with a use for their offcuts and scraps. Additionally, they obtain discarded single-se plastics from informal waste collectors. More than 20 tonnes of plastic waste have been converted into bricks thanks to Matee’s innovation and it has also provided a variety of job opportunities.

Similarly, KWS AT VolkerWessels based in The Netherlands is using recycled plastic to build roads. The PlasticRoad is lightweight, quick to install, and more durable. The first implementation came in 2018 for two cycle tracks in the towns of Zwolle and Giethoorn. In comparison to other conventional road construction materials, PlasticRoad is more sustainable as the production process is cleaner, its lifespan is three times longer, and its modular design reduces maintenance time significantly. The design of the prefabricated parts is made to be ready to use and therefore does not require massive diversions due to roadwork. The design also incorporates room for cables, pipes, solar panels, floor sections for power generation, and makes the roads flood-proof. These factors encourage other long-term sustainable solutions and address climate issues, which are becoming increasingly common.  

Conclusion

As mentioned, things made out of plastic are prevalent and not going anywhere anytime soon, but alternatives can be made from recycled materials. There are good recycling ideas that can develope into sustainable items like ocean plastic products and more plastic bottles being recycled. Plastic waste recycling innovations like those previously mentioned not only promote more sustainable solutions and extend material lifetimes, but they actively do something about the plastic that is already ending up in our environment.

MikaCycle wants to be part of the solution and help these innovations succeed by helping clients buy and sell used plastic. With MikaCycle you can contact sellers and plastic recycling companies, buy plastic of any kind for a variety of products and support solutions that help the ecological state of our planet.