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What is plastic?

Plastic is made from oil, a non-renewable resource. Oil wells are drilled on land or at sea (for photos) and the crude oil is sent to an oil refinery to turn it into products such as petrol, paraffin and lubricating oil. It is also made into plastic.

Wow fact: Plastic production uses about 8% of the world’s oil production.

Plastic and the 3Rs?

Wow fact: 1.8 tonnes of oil are saved for every tonne of recycled polythene produced.

Wow fact: Recycling saves energy – just one plastic bottle can save the same amount of energy needed to power a 60watt light bulb for 6 hours.

Different types of Plastic

You might think that plastic is just plastic, but there are about 50 different types. Some items tell us which type of plastic they are. Have you ever noticed on plastic items a strange triangle with a number inside it?  

There are numbers between 1 and 7 and the number informs us which of the 6 main types of plastic the item has been made from. Items indicating number 7 are made from one of the less common types. All Councils in Devon collect some type of plastic bottles from people’s houses; these will have numbers 1 or 2 on them; plastic types PET and HDPE respectively.

Wow fact: The average UK household uses around 500 plastic bottles per year; if all of these were recycled it would save enough energy to power their oven once every 3 days!

Wow fact: Recycling 1 tonne of plastic bottles saves 3/4 tonne of carbon; this is the equivalent of travelling nearly 2,500 miles in an average car.

How is plastic recycled?

Plastics collected for recycling are sorted into different types and sent to processing plants. Here they are either chipped for ease of transport to other plants, or melted down and made into new containers or other products, such as: fleece jackets or other textiles, sleeping bag fillers, compost bins, garden furniture that looks like wood and road cones.

Happy Recycling - Here are a few tips to ensure you can confidently recycle all your plastic bottles:

  • Firstly, make sure the bottles are empty;
  • Give them a quick rinse (no need to remove labels though);
  • Squash the bottles to save space in your recycling bin (then put the lids back on);
  • If you’re on the go; pop your plastic bottle in a bag and recycle it when you get home rather than chucking it in a waste bin.