A Simple Guide to Polypropylene Recycling for Businesses

A Simple Guide to Polypropylene Recycling for Businesses

By AAA Polymer | Plastics Recycling

Feb 17

Polypropylene recycling offers a unique opportunity to give one of the most versatile plastic materials a new and extended life. Abbreviated as PP, polypropylene is a recyclable thermoplastic polymer that is extremely rugged, versatile, and resistant to a range of bases, acids, and chemical solvents. 

The high melting point of polypropylene makes it undoubtedly the most popular plastic packaging material. In fact, around 5 billion pounds of polypropylene plastics are produced every year. However, the American Chemistry Council reports that polypropylene recycling occurs at a rate less than 1% for post-consumer recovery, which is the lowest recycling rate for plastic.  Let’s take a closer look at the importance of polypropylene recycling for businesses. 

A Deeper Look at Polypropylene

Polypropylene is the second-most commonly used plastic and one of the most versatile types of plastics. It was discovered in the mid-1950s by Italian scientists. Today, it’s only surpassed in production volume by polyethylene, which was created a couple decades earlier. Here are a few attributes that make polypropylene such a unique and valuable plastic material:

  • Polypropylene is resistant to stress and cracking — even when flexed — which makes it suitable for a range of different hinges.
  • This material doesn’t react with bases, acids, detergents, or water, which means it will not easily degrade.
  • Polypropylene has a very high melting point, which makes it suitable for a vast range of microwave containers.
  • This material is extremely durable, which allows it to withstand daily wear and tear.

Why Is Polypropylene Recycling Important?  

As we previously mentioned, the polypropylene recycling rate is nothing short of dismal. Due to the short lifespan of PP packaging, most of polypropylene materials end up in landfills as garbage. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that around 20% of solid waste created can be sourced back to some type of plastics.

Once in landfills, polypropylene slowly degrades and can take anywhere from 20-30 years to totally breakdown. This characteristic poses massive environmental concerns because the additives used in the manufacturing may include toxins like cadmium and lead. 

Much of the research suggests cadmium from plastic products can percolate and have dangerous consequences for several biosystems. 

And when these types of thermoplastics are burned, it can discharge harmful vinyl chloride and dioxins. As a result, it’s imperative for businesses to engage in polypropylene recycling — a more cost-effective and eco-friendly solution. 

What Is the Polypropylene Recycling Process?

The recycling process for polypropylene includes five different steps:

  1. Polypropylene plastics are collected.
  2. The polypropylene material must be separated from other types of plastic polymers. This is regularly achieved through a “sink-float’ separation technique where polypropylene is separated based on its ability to float when other polymers will sink. Other methods of separation can also be used. 
  3. The chunks of polypropylene or flakes are then washed with specialized detergents to completely remove contaminants. After being cleaned, the polypropylene chunks or flakes are dried with moderate heat. 
  4. In the reprocessing and melting phase, all collected polypropylene products are fed into an extruder. Because of the extremely high melting point of polypropylene, temperatures have to exceed 400 °F to melt the material. Thermal degradation works to compromise the structural intensity of the plastic bonds by weakening the hydrogen and carbon. Once it’s melted, it's cut into granules. 
  5. The pellets are then ready to be used in the production of new products. 

What Are the Environmental Benefits of Recycling Polypropylene 

Recycling polypropylene is truly emerging as an economically viable, important option on a very large scale. The top benefit of recycling PP is the reduction of finite, raw resources, such as propane gas and oil. 

It’s estimated that a stunning 8% of all of the oil used in the world (approximately 400 million tons) is used in the manufacturing of traditional plastic. Considering the inherent flexibility of polypropylene, it can be recycled back into a myriad of products, such as:

  • Dishware,
  • Clothing fibers,
  • Food containers,
  • Industrial fibers,
  • Speed humps,
  • Compost bins, and
  • Gardening equipment.

Contact AAA Polymer for Assistance with Polypropylene Recycling

As leaders in the recycling industry, the experts at AAA Polymer can help you get the most from polypropylene recycling. Contact AAA Polymer today to learn how we can help you with polypropylene recycling

About the Author

Save $1000s with a smarter commercial recycling program

x