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August 24, 2021
How to re-purpose plastics that cannot be recycled

Most of us live in a world where a lot of our everyday items are disposable. From plastic straws, earbuds, cutlery, to shopping bags and takeaway coffees, we throw away a lot of items that are incredibly harmful to the environment. The best thing to do is to always try your best to stay away from these items. But there are many other plastic items that we may think are recyclable but aren’t.

We know that plastics can take hundreds of years to break down. And when they end up in landfills, not only do they take up valuable space, often they end up in the oceans, streams, and various waterways. 

Single-use plastics like takeaway coffee cups, and plastic fruit containers are designed for exactly that – to be used once and then to be disposed of. While most aren’t aware that these items cannot be recycled. Instead of them landing in a recycling facility, or contaminating other recyclables, we can re-purpose them. 

But why can’t they be recycled?

It’s within our natural environments where plastic breaks down into tiny particles. Some contain harmful additives and can also provide a surface for other pollutants and build up into the stomachs of some animals too. 

LET’S FIRST UNDERSTAND WHY SOME ITEMS CANNOT BE RECYCLED: 

Many plastics like water and cold drink bottles can be recycled, melted, and reformed into new products – their molecules are long chains of repeating molecules. Other plastics that cannot be recycled are made from high temperatures, where soft solids or liquids cure them. This network of linked molecules makes these lightweight plastics strong enough to withstand impacts like electricity and heat in products such as aircrafts, cellphones and even wind turbines. 

According to Resin Identification Codes (RIC), plastics are differentiated by the temperature at which the material has been heated with numerical classifications #1 to #7. These are what inform you on what type of plastic it is. 

For example: 

#1 like water bottles have the highest recycling value. 

#7 Includes non-recyclable plastics like a takeaway coffee cup. 

However, there are alternative ways for “unrecyclable” plastics like #4 and #5 to be recycled, so best practice is to always check with your area’s municipality recycling centre to see what they accept. 

Non-recyclable items like #7 are plastic items that need to be re-purposed so that they don’t end up in landfills.

RE-PURPOSING PLASTIC ITEMS: 

So how do you re-purpose items that cannot be recycled? And what does re-purposing even mean? To re-purpose means to take a plastic item that cannot be recycled, and to turn it into a new item that can be used elsewhere. 

With some inspiration and creativity, re-purposing can be a lot of fun. They can also be crafty activities that the kids will love, and can even be a profitable way to conserve our natural resources and clean up our environments. 

While many grocery stores are banning plastic bags, there are still plenty of these plastic bags littered on our streets and in our waterways. Converting plastic bags into new products instead of throwing them out as waste is a lot easier than you may think. 

These are several ways in which you can re-use plastic grocery bags: 

PLARN:
The term plarn come from the word’s plastic and yarn. When you plarn, you can re-purpose plastic shopping bags into everyday items through knitting or crocheting. So, if you’re into knitting, crocheting, or doing macrame you can easily make your own baskets, placemats and even handbags from plastic grocery bags. 

FUSING:

Fusing is a fairly simple process that requires a smooth surface to iron on. All you need is a pair of scissors, parchment paper and a book or something hard enough to use as a press to iron on to remove any bubbles that may occur. By re-purposing plastic bags through using the fusing method, you could make plastic clutches, toiletry bags and even stationary bags. 

MELTING:

From earrings to necklaces, lamps and more, by melting plastics that cannot be recycled and attaching them onto various objects, you can create almost anything, even art! All you need is a pair of scissors to cut pieces of non-recyclable plastic, and a candle. By burning these pieces of plastic over a candle, the plastic melts into any creative shape you’d like it to be. 

OTHER PLASTIC ITEMS: 

Other items like straws and plastic cutlery can be turned into fun décor like lamps. These items can even be used as a “paintbrush” where you can create so many unusual shapes for an art piece. These are all great ideas for school projects! 

ITEMS THAT CAN BE RECYCLED: 

There are plenty of ideas for recyclable items like cold drink and water bottles. By re-purposing plastic items like these, you can create bird feeders, jewellery stands, piggy banks, bottle top seals for sugar, flour, spices, watering containers, hanging baskets, garage storage and food storage. 

These are just a few ideas for everyone (especially if you’re into arts and crafts). Hopefully, we have inspired you enough to give one or two ideas a good try. If you know of someone who’d love to give one of these ideas a try, share this with them! Together, every little bit that we can do helps to create a sustainable planet for us all.