What is virgin plastic?
Written by Hannah Robbins
Busting the babble on types of plastic
Sometimes it can be difficult to understand the different types of plastic, and why there are benefits and drawbacks to their use and environmental impact.
The most common types of plastic
Virgin plastic is made from a resin that is produced or derived from what’s called “mechanical resources” that have never been processed before – these are natural gases, petroleum and crude oils.
When plastic is made it is modified and processed by applying heat and pressure – the heat liquifies it so it’s easier to shape and mould, and the pressure forces it to form into a consistent shape.
The more this process is done, the weaker the molecules that make up the plastic become – which results in a lesser quality item each time it is heated and moulded. This is why virgin plastic has a longer lifespan and is considered to be the best quality to use.
Recycled plastic can come from many sources, in many forms, shapes and sizes – in a nutshell it is any plastic that has been reclaimed or repurposed. The quality of recycled plastic depends on its type and source, as some types are harder to recycle than others, which is why what we can recycle in our local area differs across the UK. Additionally, we export a lot of plastic for recycling.
The most common type of recycled plastic is post-consumer – it has been reclaimed from the consumer after using it, like single-use packaging, bottles or longer-use items like toothbrushes. These are taken to material recovery facilities (MRFs) and reprocessed.
Another type of recycled plastic is post-industrial – plastic that never left the production or manufacturing facility, never making it to the consumer. This could be scrap cut-offs, or mis produced pieces of material.
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