Plastic milk bottles are often made from PET, which is one of the most straightforward plastics to recycle. But what does recycling PET plastic entail? And what happens to the plastic milk bottles you recycle? If you don’t already know, learn how to properly recycle plastic milk bottles at home today.
How We Recycle Plastic Milk Bottles
Milk bottles were made of glass until the material was replaced in favor of plastic, which is more convenient and cost-effective. In fact, between 1975 and 2015, glass milk bottle production dropped by almost by 90%. Recently, however, environmental concerns have led to an upsurge in glass bottles, an attempt to combat the spread of plastic waste in oceans and other crucial habitats. Still, plastic is likely to remain the most highly sought-after material for the world’s favorite morning beverage.
So how can you ensure that your plastic doesn’t end up in a landfill or in our life-giving oceans? After you’ve used up everything in your plastic milk bottles in bulk, place them into a recycling bin. Milk bottles labeled with a #1, which marks them as PET plastic, are accepted by all curbside recycling programs. Once collected, the bottles are sent to a processing facility, where they’re sorted, separated, and compressed into bales. These bales, each of which contains up to 7,200 bottles, are delivered to a facility that breaks them apart to remove any unwanted debris. The remaining plastic is further treated in a washing machine to wash away labels, leftover food, or other contaminants. In order to make this process smoother for processing facilities, you should rinse out your plastic milk bottles prior to recycling them.
At this point, the plastic is deconstructed to look something like dried plastic flakes. When heated, they transform into a soft, clay-like substance, which is then extended into long, spaghetti-like strands. When the strands are placed directly into water, they cool and harden into small pellets, which are shipped to companies that reuse them to create products such as playground equipment, shampoo bottles, carpeting, toothbrushes, cutting boards, and storage bins.
Interesting Facts About Recycling Plastic
We live in the era of plastic, but thankfully, more and more companies are switching to using recycled plastics for their products. Here are some interesting facts about plastics you probably haven’t heard before:
- The recycling process isn’t perfect. In fact, as much as 22% of recycled PET plastic is exported to foreign countries because American processing facilities simply can’t keep up with the influx of plastic.
- Using recycled plastic to make new products saves 66% more energy than using new material.
- Plastic can only by recycled two or three times before it is unusable. Long strands of polymers make PET plastic durable and flexible—each time a plastic bottle is recycled, these polymer chains shorten, reducing the life span of the plastic.