Polypropylene

Polypropylene (PP) Recycling

Jul 22, 2021

Polypropylene, or “PP”, is the most commonly used plastic packaging material worldwide [1], due to various factors such as its chemical resistance and propensity to being made transparent (through an extrusion and stretching process that results in biaxially oriented polypropylene, or BOPP) [2]. In addition, PP is also highly recyclable, and has a resin identification code of 5.

One repeating unit of Polypropylene.

However, according to the American Chemistry Council, currently less than 1 percent of the annual volume of PP manufactured ends up being recycled [1]. This can be partially attributed to the unfortunate circumstance surrounding PP use. As it is a popular packaging material, often PP applications have inherently short shelf lives. Furthermore, once PP is recycled, it often ends up as black or gray refuse which is often less enticing to manufacturers to reuse as packaging materials [3].

Polypropylene has a resin identification code of 5.

“… we signal to customers safety and cleanliness with our products, so we can’t sell stuff that is in gray or black bottles.” (John Layman, P&G Cincinnati) [3].

As a result, much of the PP that is manufactured inevitably ends up in landfills. This can have serious environmental and public health consequences as many of the additives used in PP manufacturing can be harmful if not treated properly.

Polypropylene plastic bottle caps.

However, after proper recycling procedures, namely separation of PP from other plastics, decontaminating, grinding and melting, post-consumer recycled PP can be used as recycled input in the creation of new products, at a ratio of as high as 50:50 with virgin resin. [1].

At Reclaim Plastics, our wide-frequency range sorting technology allows us to more easily separate darker coloured plastic scrap, including discolored PP, resulting in a quicker and more efficient recycling process.

References

[1] R. Leblanc, “Polypropylene Recycling – An Introduction,” The Balance Small Business, May 09, 2019. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/an-overview-of-polypropylene-recycling-2877863 (accessed Jul. 27, 2021).

[2] Granwell Products, “BOPP Film Overview,” Granwell Products. https://granwell.com/bopp-film-overview/ (accessed Jul. 27, 2021).

[3] E. Chasan, “There’s Finally a Way to Recycle the Plastic in Shampoo and Yogurt Packaging,” www.bloomberg.com, Sep. 15, 2019. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-09-25/polypropylene-plastic-can-finally-be-recycled.

One repeating unit of Polypropylene.

Polypropylene has a resin identification code of 5.

Polypropylene plastic bottle caps.

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