how it's made
Different recycled plastics sheets are made from different wastes and from a variety of polymer types. As a result of this the processes that we use vary from material to material.
Recycling isn’t just one process, it’s a series of processes which start with removal of waste from the conventional waste stream (that might end up in a landfill site), and the final step of the recycling process is when someone buys a new product made out of what was originally waste. These processes include, collection, baling, sorting, cleaning, granulating or size reduction, melt processing, forming of a new product and sale of the new end product.
Plastics waste is in everyone’s dustbin, but increasingly municipal authorities are collecting recyclable plastic bottles and passing them on to the next stage in the recycling process. For more information on this we recommend www.recoup.org.
Plastics waste is also generated in factories and commercial sites. Sometimes it is post-use and sometimes it is production waste. Post-use commercial waste includes pallet wrapping, drums and sacks and other packaging.
Plastics processing to make new products invariably produces some waste material. This might be faulty products or offcuts or even cutting swarf, and is normally referred to as industrial waste or scrap.
There are thousands of different grades and types of plastics materials, some can be advantageously mixed together but most mixtures have poorer properties than the original individual components. The highest quality recycled plastics can be made when the waste contains just one material, so it is often essential to sort the waste into different types. This is why clear plastic fizzy-drink bottles are separated from the squeezy sort.
After sorting the waste may need to be washed to remove labels, dirt and, in the case of bottles, any residual contents. Most plastics waste is also granulated to a flake or small lump for easy handling.
The sorted, cleaned plastics waste is what we purchase for the Smile Plastics part of the process.
The material we buy often looks like multi-coloured cornflakes. We take this and add a measured amount into a large mould which is put into a hydraulic press. Then, through a process of heat and pressure, the individual pieces of plastic fuse together and take the shape of the mould. We cool it down and take out a solid sheet of recycled plastic – our product.