Mechanical recycling is the most common way to recycle both consumer and industrial plastics. It is fairly simple to do. It’s cost-effective, if you manage sorting and cleaning properly, and it creates a product that manufacturers actually want to buy. That product is regrind.
Seraphim Plastics is a Tennessee company that specializes in industrial plastic recycling. They buy a variety of plastic waste products ranging from pallets and tubes to plastic cutoffs and purge. Everything they purchase and process ends up as regrind that they sell to manufacturers.
How the Process Works
Turning plastic scrap into regrind starts with sorting and cleaning. In an industrial setting, the customer sorts and cleans prior to selling the plastic waste to a company like Seraphim Plastics. A food distributor with a stack of empty dunnage trays would be sure to keep those trays separate from any other materials. The trays would be cleaned to ensure they are contaminant free when Seraphim Plastics comes to collect them.
Things are different in a municipal setting. Municipalities that recycle consumer plastics collect those plastics, along with paper and glass, from curbside bins. The plastics are transported back to a processing facility where they are sorted and cleaned. Only then are they ready to be recycled.
Both industrial and consumer plastics are mechanically recycled by sending them through grinders or shredders to reduce them in size. Grinders produce small pellets that are mixed with virgin plastic to make new products. Shredders reduce plastic waste to small flakes that are melted down in advance of further processing.
Why Regrind Is an Attractive Option
There are numerous benefits to transforming scrap plastic into regrind. Some of those benefits make regrind attractive to manufacturers who would, in its absence, rely on 100% virgin plastic to make their products.
The benefits include:
- Reducing Waste – It has been estimated that more than 90% of all plastic is discarded as waste. That equates to millions of tons of plastic being thrown into landfills every year. Creating regrind keeps plastic out of the waste stream. That is a good thing.
- Protecting the Environment – A certain amount of discarded plastic never makes it to landfills. It ends up in waterways, empty fields, etc. This is obviously not good for the environment. Turning plastic waste into regrind reduces the amount of plastic ending up in places it has no business being in.
- Financial Savings – Although producing regrind cost-effectively is challenging in a municipal setting, it is standard practice for industrial recyclers. Companies like Seraphim Plastics can produce regrind for cheaper than it costs companies to buy virgin plastic.
Converting plastic scrap into regrind doesn’t come without its challenges. The biggest challenge right now is to figure out how municipalities can do it as efficiently as industrial recyclers. Another challenge is the reality that mechanical recycling reduces the quality and integrity of the plastic itself. The challenges remind us that there is plenty of room for improvement.
Better Ways to Produce, Use, and Recycle
A robust market for plastic regrind is all the proof you need to know that mechanical recycling is a worthwhile enterprise. Companies like Seraphim Plastics thrive because they can produce a product that manufacturers want at a price that they are willing to pay. While industrial recyclers continue to do what they do, we need to look for better ways to produce, use, and recycle plastic.
Recycling plastic waste conserves natural resources by reducing reliance on petroleum and reducing the energy necessary to produce plastic products. Likewise, better recycling means less waste going into landfills and incinerators. What we have learned from producing regrind suggests even better times ahead.