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Identifying plastics

The context

There has been a huge increase in the amount of plastics used in Western Europe. From 1991 to 1999, total consumption of plastic products soared from 24.5 million tonnes a year to 33.5 million tonnes.

One of three things happens to all of these plastic products once they have been used.

Plastics can only be recycled once they have been identified and separated into different polymers. You will probably have noticed that many plastic products and components have a mark on them, showing what type of plastic they are made from. However, they still have to be sorted into different categories by hand, which is time consuming and expensive.

To make it possible to recycle plastics efficiently, recycling centres need a device for identifying and separating plastics automatically. And it looks like a solution has been found by an unlikely source - the car industry.


Which plastics are most widely used?

What are plastics used for?

Which plastics can be recycled?

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Practical Action - Technology challenging povertyEuropean Commission - Department for International Development

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