Plastics are among the most confusing materials when it comes to commercial waste recycling, with many different types of plastic, not all of which can currently be recycled.

Because of this, it’s important to make sure you know how to identify different types of plastic and make a good effort to recycle those that are recyclable, while disposing of the rest in your general waste.

Gaskells are committed to a long-term goal to send zero waste to landfill, and non-recyclable plastics can be used in other ways, for example controlled combustion to generate energy without releasing any harmful gases.

How to tell if plastic is recyclable

You can identify most complete plastic items by looking for the triangle of arrows with a number in the middle.

This number relates to the type of plastic used in the item:

1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
2. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
4. Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
5. Polypropylene (PP)
6. Polystyrene/Styrofoam (PS)
7. Other

As a rule of thumb, plastic is more likely to be recyclable if it is higher on the list, and if it is rigid rather than flexible – low-density plastics like polystyrene and plastic films are usually not recyclable.

What to do with non-recyclable plastics

First of all, don’t just throw them in the plastic recycling bin. Low-grade plastics can contaminate recycling loads, making the recycled plastic of a lower quality, or even making it completely useless.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of learning about the different types of plastic, make sure you dispose of them separately, and also make sure that your employees do so too.

You might want to put up a notice alongside the recycling bins, to clearly state which numbers/types of plastic can be recycled, or any specific plastic items you use regularly that cannot be recycled.

Examples of non-recyclable plastics

Some examples of non-recyclable plastics Gaskells encounter on a regular basis include:

• Extruded packaging e.g. polystyrene, Styrofoam chips.
• Plastic cartons (unless specified as recyclable).
• Thin films e.g. cling film, crisp packets etc.
• Plastic plates and cups.
• Disposable plastic cutlery.

Plastic disposal and recycling is a hot topic at the moment as plastic waste is being found all over the planet, on uninhabited islands, in the oceans and even ingested by sea life.

How Gaskells can help

We can help you to work out your recyclable and non-recyclable waste streams, and set up suitable bins and skips for each so you have all the capacity you need.

If that includes quantities of non-recyclable plastic and other waste, we can divert this from landfill to our Energy from Waste plant, generating power without adding to landfill or releasing harmful emissions from open-air combustion.