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What is commercial plastic disposal?

If your business produces plastic waste and you need to dispose of it, read more about the different options and processes here

Plastic waste disposal is a global issue that needs to be addressed by everyone, including small businesses.

Each year, about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced worldwide, according to data published by the UN.

But how – and where – should you begin? Which types of plastic can and can’t be recycled? And what are some of the potential benefits of effective plastic disposal?

We’ll provide the key information you need to know in order to understand your business’ plastic disposal requirements.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. Plastic recycling: What do you need to know?
  2. What type of businesses might need commercial plastic recycling?
  3. What is the plastic disposal process?
  4. How to recycle plastic
  5. What are the benefits of commercial plastic recycling?

Skip to the section you want to learn about the most, or read the whole article to gain a more detailed understanding.

Otherwise, to compare quotes for commercial waste management right away, just fill in the form at the top of the page.


1. Plastic recycling: What do you need to know?

Plastic is a lightweight material, so it’s usually collected in high amounts.

The polymer type determines the type of plastic, and thus whether it can be recycled or not. A polymer is a series of connected molecules.

Some examples of common polymers are HDPE, PET and PVC. These are also the types you’re likely to see on the bottom of plastic bottles, for instance.

There are a number of different types of plastic, including:

  • Polycarbonate PC – this is recyclable
  • Acrylic PMMA – this is difficult to recycle; it’s possible, but requires a different treatment process
  • PVC – this can be recycled by filtering the materials. It’s often found in window and door frames, as well as cling film
  • HDPE – this can be recycled, and provides another option when making new plastic, other than using raw materials – kitchenware and plastic bags, for example
  • PET – most commonly used in food processing items and water bottles
  • LDPE – often found in toys, as well as packaging in general and some plastic bags

Other codes exist, such as PP and PS, although they may be less familiar.

The codes for labelling plastics were created by the Plastics Industry Association, the organisation that supports the whole of the supply chain for plastics.

It’s not mandatory that plastics are labelled or marked.

For some plastic types, it’s possible to follow the closed-loop recycling cycle, which is when the materials (so in this case, the plastics) have been recycled and can be returned to the market to be used again.

What is WEEE?

WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. It refers to any items of waste that have a battery or a plug.


2. What type of businesses might need commercial plastic recycling?

If your business creates plastic waste, then you may be able to recycle it. Plastic waste comes from industrial production processes, as well as from utilities and from making other materials.

It’s important for all businesses to have a plastic recycling policy – even if it’s just to ensure that you recycle empty drinks bottles.

While plastic is a material commonly found in many commercial operations – especially retail and hospitality businesses – there are other examples.

For instance, scrap plastic waste may come from glazing companies and warehouses.

Similarly, if you’re a florist or run a landscaping business, flowerpots and other trade materials are often made from plastic. Flowerpots can be difficult to recycle, so consider alternatives instead (see below for more information).

Covers, wrapping and bags from farm equipment are also examples of commercial plastic waste that could be recycled.

If you run a home-based business, remember that the waste produced from your business activity must be treated as commercial waste.


3. What is the plastic disposal process?

Plastic can be sorted into different waste streams. These include:

  • Manufacturing waste (such as scrap or rejects)
  • Packaging waste (e.g. bottles, caps and containers)
  • Redundant waste (e.g. packaging and raw material)
  • End-of-life plastic waste (such as from automotive materials or wheelie bin recycling)
  • Baled plastic film or hard plastic cases

Plastic waste can be collected as scrap (i.e. in its original state), or it can go through the compacting process.

Plastic is usually collected separately in recycling, although some collection companies may offer mixed recycling collections. Some waste collectors may be able to take all types of plastic for disposal or recycling, while others may specialise in certain types.

Waste management companies can assess your business’ needs, such as the amount of plastic you use and the ways in which it should be disposed of, and provide a service accordingly.

How to choose a commercial plastic waste disposal provider

While there are a several factors to consider when selecting a waste management company, the following points will help you in the process:

  • Assess the waste – how much of it can be recycled, and how much will have to go to landfill?
  • Sort the waste – collection services or providers may be able to advise on how to best sort your plastic waste, which is especially relevant when disposing of scrap plastic
  • How to dispose of it – plastic waste can be bought and sold
  • Process – can it be easily traced?
  • Material – can it be repurposed?
  • Regulations – does the company meet British Standards (BSI) or international measures, like ISO?
  • Area covered – do you need a local provider, or one that can travel further distances?

After collection, the plastic can be taken to treatment or waste disposal sites in the UK, or it may be exported.


4. How to recycle plastic

Plastic isn’t biodegradable – if it’s sent to landfill, it won’t break down.

When commercial plastic waste is recycled, it goes through the following processes:

  • Separated from regular waste
  • Sorted – e.g. bottles are squashed, lids are removed (the polymer type will determine if they can go in the same stream or not)
  • Stored in containers e.g. bags, bins, sacks or skips
  • Separated by colour
  • Shredded or granulated
  • Dirty materials are cleaned (for example, food waste left on packaging can make it difficult to go through the machines) and labels are removed

The fact that plastic can be made from different polymers – as well as dyed – can affect how it’s recycled, meaning it’s a more complicated process than glass recycling.

Some ready meal trays can’t be recycled, as they can’t be identified by the optical sensors on the sorting machines.


5. What are the benefits of commercial plastic recycling?

By choosing to recycle the plastic waste produced by your business, you could experience a number of benefits. These include:

  • Cut costs – it can be cheaper to recycle waste than send it to landfill
  • Help the planet – waste plastic can be made into material that can be used again, which also helps to reduce the amount of emissions created when producing new plastic
  • Improve brand awareness – following recycling and other green practices could help position your company as one that cares about sustainability
  • Reach your target audience – depending on who your customer base is, taking an eco-friendly stance could help you to connect with consumers who are aligned with your company’s ethos

During the plastic recycling process, plastic is collected and then melted. After this, it’s usually turned into pellets that can then be used to make new plastic materials.

Recycled plastic can be used in many ways. Indeed, it can be used in utility pipes for gas and water supplies, road infrastructure, and even petroleum.

You could also consider not creating plastic waste in the first place, or at least lessening the amount. This has been helped by the nationwide introduction of the 5p plastic bag charge. Other possible ways include:

  • Use canvas (or other non-plastic material) for bags and wrapping – ideal if you run a shop
  • Offer reusable cups instead of disposable ones in your cafe or restaurant – you could consider offering discounts or incentives for customers who bring their own, too

Not only will these actions help reduce the amount of commercial plastic waste you produce, but they can also be used as a way of branding your start-up.

For more inspiration, read our article on plastic alternatives – a concept which made our best business ideas for 2019 list!


What are the next steps?

From reading this article, you’ve learned more about business plastic disposal, including the different types of plastics and the processes necessary to dispose of them in the quickest, easiest and safest ways possible. We’ve also looked at what types of businesses plastic waste disposal could be most relevant for.

Next, read our pages on waste disposal prices and the best waste management companies to learn more about commercial waste.

Or, if you’re ready to compare quotes for commercial waste management now, simply scroll to the top of the page and complete the form.

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