This Is Plastics: Recycling 101

Plastics 101

Recycling 101

Explore how traditional recycling, advanced recycling and energy recovery technologies create value from used plastics.


Top 3 Takeaways

Plastics are an extremely important part of our daily lives—and their proper disposal is extremely important as well. Recycling is the key to saving energy and keeping plastics out of oceans and landfills. That’s why the industry is innovating to explore the many ways plastics can be recycled or turned into energy.

No matter the material—aluminum, glass, paper or plastic—we all need to do our part and use it responsibly by reusing, recycling or recovering.

There are a variety of ways to recover value from used plastics, including traditional recycling, also called mechanical recycling, and advanced, or molecular recycling. While these processes are very different, they complement one another. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Traditional recycling:

    This is the type of recycling consumers are most familiar with. It’s what happens to the plastic products people place in their recycling bins. The multi-step process results in materials that are converted into new plastic products.

  • Advanced recycling:

    Also known as chemical, molecular, tertiary or feedstock recycling, advanced recycling encompasses any technology that converts plastics into a purified form or a feedstock that can be used in the production of new polymers, monomers, intermediates, or other materials. Examples include but are not limited to purification, depolymerization, solvolysis, gasification, and pyrolysis.

  • Other end-of-life pathways:

    Energy recovery technologies, while not recycling, turn landfill-bound plastics into reliable and renewable energy sources. Plastics that can’t otherwise be recycled can be used to create electricity and types of fuels. If we use plastics for energy recovery, we can reduce the volume of waste going to landfills by 80%.

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