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How to properly sort and dispose of plastics?

Start with yourself. How many times have you heard that phrase? And probably, like most of us, have thought that one little person has no effect on anything. To abandon those thoughts and embrace the idea that everyone can be a driving force, you only have to think about the amount of garbage one person produces in a year.

The world is drowning in garbage. The volume of discarded plastic, glass, paper and other waste amounts to thousands of tons. It is difficult to reduce this figure, but at least it is possible to stop its growth. Sorting waste, reusing it, reducing resource consumption - this is something everyone should try for a long time, the main thing is to start.

How do I start sorting my garbage?

A good start is half the battle. To start sorting, you have to:

  • Your irresistible desire
  • Find out what is recyclable (which this article will help you with)
  • Prepare a place in the house / apartment / office / yard for separate garbage collection (on average 1 m2 is required, but, of course, the size of the area may vary)
  • Buy bins for sorting waste, in which we will put glass, plastic, paper, and materials that are not recyclable. Such boxes are made of laminated cardboard, they are sturdy and have enough space for a relatively small volume. If you don't quite want to spend the money, you can use any thick paper boxes.
  • Prepare a container for collecting organic waste. To do this, you can use an ordinary room urn, which is already available in most people's homes. We also recommend buying biodegradable garbage bags, which are an excellent alternative to their plastic counterparts. These bags are made from plant-based polymers (such as corn starch), so they are able to decompose with organic waste.
  • Find a sorting station in your city. You can also take certain types of trash to recycling centers. To get rid of unwanted old or broken appliances, electronics, light bulbs, and batteries, use specialized recycling facilities (but some recycling stations may accept them, too).<br>

Important: Each sorting station, recycling center or recycling center has its own list of what they are willing to take from you. It is advisable to clarify these details in advance directly with the organization with which you plan to cooperate.

So, let's move on to one of the most important parts of zero waste culture: learning the rules of trash sorting. Here we go!

Sorting Plastic

Plastic is the greatest invention of the 20th century and the most common man-made material on the planet. It also tops the garbage list. At first glance, harmless plastic can be safely thrown into the bin with other waste, but the problem is that it takes at least 150 years to fully decompose such products, and a maximum of 1,000. Moreover, as plastic decomposes, it releases toxic substances that negatively affect both human health and the environment. Remains of plastic seep into the groundwater, the wind carries them to the ocean, which leads to the death of fauna: animals swallow its particles or get entangled in the bags.

To rid the planet of plastic is as follows:

  • to reduce the use of plastic or eliminate it altogether;
  • to recycle plastic.
  • to conduct expeditions, collect plastic that is already in nature and deliver it for recycling<br>

What types of plastic can be sorted?

Most plastic food containers are marked (marked) in the form of a recycling symbol (three arrows going one after the other, forming a triangle), numbers from 1 to 7 and letters. If the container does not have any such information, it is better not to buy it - it may be dangerous to health. In addition, if there is no marking, sorting stations may not accept such plastic. The marking is usually located on the bottom, the bottom of the product body or on the label.

There are seven basic types of plastic:

1. Polyethylene terephthalate - PET (E) or PET. This type of plastic is only suitable for single-use and is the material for containers with water, soft drinks, beer, oil, dairy products, cosmetics.

The most typical and widespread representative of PET is the usual plastic bottle

PET plastic is safe for freezing. Must not be heated in a microwave oven or come into contact with hot food. If improperly used, it releases phthalates, which are hazardous substances that can adversely affect human reproduction. Generally recyclable well, but you should pay attention to color or type of container, for example, thin disposable trays that are labeled PET may not be accepted (check with your sorting station for information).

2. High-density polyethylene - PEHD or HDPE. This includes bottles for food (milk, juice) and non-food liquids (detergents, cosmetics, shampoos, shower gels), caps, canisters for motor and other automotive oils. The containers usually have thick walls. Considered to be suitable for food storage, recyclable but not desirable for a second time. Can release formaldehyde, a carcinogenic substance that can cause cancer. In addition, formaldehyde affects mucous membranes and skin, causing eczema, dermatitis.

HDPE jar

3. Polyvinyl chloride - PVC or PVC3. Such plastic is used to make toys, plastic windows, floor coverings, furniture elements, tablecloths, stretch ceilings, hoses, blinds. It is not suitable for food and is virtually unrecyclable. Many toxic additives are used in PVC production: phthalates, heavy metals, etc. When burned, it releases dangerous poisons into the air - dioxins.

4. Low density polyethylene - LDPE or PEBD. This type of plastic is used to produce smooth and flexible material: bags that do not rustle but stretch; garbage bags, toys, linoleum, tarpaulins, films, containers that bend. Considered safe and suitable for food products. Toxic when heated. Reusable and recyclable.

Such bags belong to LDPE and can be recycled

5. Polypropylene - PP or PP. This type of plastic is heat-resistant and durable. It is used to make food containers and dishes, bottle caps, discs, syrup and sauce bottles, syringes, inhalers, jars, containers, yoghurt cups, film packaging, toys, pipes, parts of technical equipment, car parts. Safe: can withstand high temperatures. Mostly recyclable, but thin-walled containers may not be accepted by sorting stations.

Plastic containers with PP

6. Polystyrene - PS. Although some food packaging (disposable dishes, cups, utensils) are made from this plastic, it is considered potentially hazardous due to its styrene content. This element can be released when heated and reused, affecting primarily the respiratory system, skin, and mucous membranes. Of polystyrene, only Styrofoam is recyclable; all other products made of this type of plastic are incinerated.

7. Other. Unlabeled plastic products, mixed, multi-layer types of plastic, solid containers for cosmetics, coffee and food, toys, bottles, utensils. If used repeatedly, heating can release bisphenol A (found in polycarbonate), a substance that can lead to hormonal changes. It is best to avoid using this type of plastic, as it is not usually recycled, but only - high-temperature incineration.

How do I sort and prepare plastic for recycling?

  • Wash plastic containers and dry them. Otherwise, the plastic may not be accepted for recycling.
  • Roll up the container, remove the air from the plastic bottle so that it takes up less space.
  • Caps (depending on the code: usually HDPE (2), LDPE (4) or star marking), dispensers and labels must be removed and sorted separately. Only oil bottles and Tetra Pak bottles (Tetra Pak is a special cardboard packaging; we will talk about it later in this article) can be left with the cap.
  • If there are no waste sorting stations or points in your community, dispose of prepared plastic only in the appropriate bins on the streets. Please note! Only plastic can be thrown into these garbage cans!<br>

What is made from recycled plastic?

Fortunately, most types of plastic are recyclable, so from the sorting stations all plastic products are sent to the appropriate plants, where the plastic is pressed, shredded, put through a steam boiler to remove residual impurities. As a result, a secondary pellet or flex, the raw material for new products, comes off the conveyor belt.

Flex is used to create chemical fibers: bristles for brushes, packing tape, film, tiles, paving tiles. It is also used to create polyester and fleece, a material that insulates fabrics and gives them strength. In addition, recycled plastic becomes the material for new containers, bags, pipes, etc.

Plastic waste that is NOT recyclable

  • Plastic marked 03, 07 and unmarked;
  • Blister Container;
  • Disposable plastic tableware;
  • Plastic stationery (folders, files, cards, pens, felt-tip pens, stickers, tape)
  • Personal care products (cotton swabs, syringes, diapers and pads, cosmetics, pill blisters, dental floss and brushes, plastic tubes, shaving machines, shoe covers);
  • Compact Discs<br>

Sorting bags

The best option is to abandon plastic (plastic) bags altogether, because there are many eco-friendly alternatives: eco-bags, vegetable bags, and so on. But, unfortunately, we often have to deal with bags in the form of packages from bread, sugar, cereals, ice cream, chips, etc.

How do I prepare bags for recycling?

We divide bags into two groups: polyethylene and polypropylene.

Polyethylene is the second (02 PEHD, HDPE, C / HDPE) and fourth (04 LDPE, LDPE, C / PEBD) type of plastic. Most often there are no markings on plastic bags, but we know them well, because they are typical store bags:

  • prepackages;
  • bags with handles (the color of the bag and the handle variant do not matter)пакеты для мусора;<br>
  • zip-bags;
  • stretch film;
  • bubble film;
  • transparent beverage cartons;
  • Polyethylene foam (similar to Styrofoam, but stretches rather than crumbles);
  • packages from toilet paper;
  • Some sour-milk product cartons<br>

Polypropylene is the fifth type of plastic (05 C / PP, PP). A characteristic feature of bags made of this material is that they rustle and do not stretch, unlike polyethylene bags. Usually it is:

  • completely transparent packages, often with adhesive tape, in which tea, candy, and board games are packaged.
  • bags of cereal, sugar, pasta;
  • bread bags;
  • ice cream and candy wrappers<br>

Such bags are usually not recyclable, so they are disposed of by high-temperature incineration. Check with your sorting station for details of how to recycle them.

And, of course, all bags should be clean, with no crumbs, leftover food or paper stickers.

Sorting paper

Waste paper is the most common secondary raw material, which is the basis of the paper industry. Why sort paper and recycle it? First, it helps reduce the amount of trees that are cut down. Secondly, during the recycling of waste paper, far fewer toxins are released into the environment than during paper production. Third, it reduces the amount of waste going into landfills, reduces air pollution, and conserves resources that are used for production. Let's get up to speed on this topic and learn how to sort paper properly.

What is Tetra Pak?

Appearances can be deceiving, so it's worth knowing that juice and dairy cartons are only 75% cardboard, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminum foil. They are called aseptic or Tetra Pak / Pure Pak (labelled C / PAP). It has six layers, each having a different function, and all together they provide long and safe storage of the product, creating an effective barrier against bacteria and external negative influences. Packaging of this type should be sorted separately from paper waste, washed, dry and compressed. It can be handed over with a plastic lid.

Бумажные отходы, которые подлежат переработке:

  • cardboard packaging, boxes;
  • paper (office, glossy, color)
  • paper bags;
  • publishing products;
  • notepads and notebooks;
  • paper disposable cups (actually, they are not really paper, since they contain a polyethylene liner)
  • Tetra Pak / Pure Pak;<br>
  • corks;
  • egg trays.<br>

Paper waste that is NOT recyclable:

  • napkins, towels, toilet paper;
  • parchment (if it is dirty, greasy, and has food residue);
  • wrapper from butter, cheese, etc.;
  • stickers;
  • wallpapers;<br>
  • checks;
  • laminated paper;
  • coated paper;
  • paper products with traces of paint or chemicals.<br>

Again, we recommend that you check with your sorting station or recycling center about accepting one type of paper or another. You may be able to make small adjustments to the above lists.

Why can't checks be recycled?

The material used to make the checks is thermal paper, which, like some plastic, contains bisphenol A, and it has a negative effect on human health. We strongly recommend as little contact as possible! It is through this substance that receipts are not accepted for recycling, as there is a risk of contaminating other waste paper with toxins. In addition, thermal paper has a low cellulose content, so the yield of recyclables from this material is extremely low.

How to sort and prepare paper for recycling

  • Remove food residue - the paper product must be clean, dry and free of grease. Wash and dry Tetra Pak / Pure Pak containers.
  • Remove any remaining tape, staples, staples, files, binders, if any.
  • Stack all waste paper tightly. Remove the air from Tetra Pak / Pure Pak packages and compress them so that they take up less space.<br>

What is made from recycled paper?

Recycling waste paper is a fairly simple process: it is shredded into small fibers, treated with various substances, which allows to disinfect the resulting substance and reduces the possibility of ignition. The result is a dry and crumbly mass with minimal thermal conductivity.

It won't surprise you if we tell you that paper is reused to make paper. Of course, it is not white office sheets, usually egg trays, food packaging sheets, toilet paper. But waste paper is also successfully used to produce ecowool (construction material), fiberboard (material for treating rooms from the inside out), and plant pots.

Glass sorting

Glass is usually readily accepted everywhere. It is very easy to recycle because it is made of sand. To create a new glass product, all you have to do is break the old glass and melt it down. But unfortunately, not all glass goes to recycling plants, but ends up in landfills, where it then decays for millions of years. And according to some sources, it does not decompose at all.

Glass waste that is recyclable:

  • Glass bottles;
  • Glassware;
  • Broken glass;
  • Glass vials from perfume, medicine;<br>

Glass waste that is NOT recyclable:

  • Ceramics;
  • Crystal;<br>
  • Heat-resistant glass;
  • Shatterproof glass;
  • Mirrors.

What about the light bulbs?

Incandescent light bulbs, energy-saving light bulbs, and fluorescent light bulbs are considered high-grade hazardous waste and must be disposed of properly. The white coating inside a fluorescent bulb is a substance containing mercury. If you break the lamp, the mercury will evaporate. Therefore, lamps must be transported properly.

You need to find out where in your city they accept and dispose of this type of waste. LED lamps should be collected separately and recycled together with the electronics.

How to sort and prepare glass for recycling

  • Contaminated glassware should be washed and dried.
  • Bottle caps should be sorted together with metal or plastic, depending on their type of material;
  • Labels can be left on the bottle as they separate during processing.<br>

What is made from recycled glass?

Recycling 1 ton of waste glass saves 650 kg of sand, 150 kg of soda ash and 200 kg of limestone needed to produce primary glass. It also saves a lot of space in landfills. Most often glass is reused to make glass containers and construction materials: glass wool, foam glass, fiberglass.

Metal sorting

Scrap metal is one of the most popular types of waste. It is accepted even where there is no established system of separate waste collection. Tin cans are the most recyclable container in the world. It will be used, recycled and put back on the store shelf within 60 days. But if it ends up in a landfill, it will take 20 to 50 years to decompose. So, let's learn how to properly sort waste from this material in order to preserve the natural reserves of iron ore, reduce the negative impact on the environment and save energy resources.

Metal waste that is recyclable:

  • Cans;
  • Foil and foil containers;
  • Metal caps;
  • Metal dishes;
  • Aluminum tubes;
  • Paint cans;
  • Aluminum sleeves from under the candles;
  • Metal canisters.<br>

Metal waste that is NOT recyclable:

  • Aerosol cans (some stations accept)
  • Shaving machines;
  • Batteries.<br>

What to do with the batteries?

Batteries contain various metals: lead, zinc, nickel, manganese, cadmium, mercury. These substances pollute the environment because they contain aggressive acids: one battery, thrown carelessly into nature, can pollute 16 m2 of land with toxic substances. Therefore, you should never dispose of batteries in a common garbage dump.

How to sort and prepare metal for recycling

  • Wash and dry;
  • If possible, squeeze the jar so it takes up less space.<br>

What is made from recycled metal?

If we are talking about recycling tin cans and aluminum cans, in 99% of cases they are recycled into the same can. In general, after remelting, scrap metal can be used to produce almost any product from the corresponding material without deteriorating their properties.

Sorting of organic waste

Organic waste is all vegetable and fruit peels and scraps. Separate only bones and cartilage, which can then be given to street animals or frozen and sent to shelters.

However, the best and most environmentally friendly way to dispose of organic waste is composting, which can be carried out in the garden plot and even in the apartment. As a result of composting we get fertilizer, which is always useful in the garden, in the yard of your house, in the country house, and also will certainly like your indoor plants.

What is not accepted at the sorting stations?

  • clothes and shoes (if the condition is satisfactory, give to charitable organizations);
  • bulbs;<br>
  • thermometers;
  • stained glass;
  • Hygiene and medical supplies (cotton swabs, syringes, diapers and pads, cosmetics, pill blisters, dental floss, plastic tubes, shaving machines, shoe covers);
  • Paint / varnish containers;
  • technique (look for special stations);
  • batteries and rechargeable batteries;
  • plasticine;
  • PVC labeled plastic;
  • plastic with metal;
  • mattresses;
  • rubber products;
  • foam rubber;
  • wood;
  • building waste.

So, no matter how you spin it, it all starts with us! And you are already a superhero, at least because you have read this article and gained new knowledge. Yes, to break is not to build, and to litter is not to sort. It really is not an easy job, which requires moral preparedness. But do not be frightened, now you are fully equipped: you know all the nuances of sorting garbage. Let's save the planet together and change the world for the better!


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