Recycled Plastics vs. Virgin Resins: Which One is better?

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of emphasis on limiting the use of plastic and using recycled plastic for end use or make a new product or component, and rightly so. Here, we have drawn comparisons between recycled plastics and virgin resins. Considering the environmental impact, recycled plastic is certainly beneficial. However, there are pros and cons for both recycled as well as virgin plastic. So, are virgin resins more durable or do recycled plastics affect the quality of the end product? Here, in this post, we try to find the answers.

Pros and Cons of Virgin Resins

A majority of plastics are produced from high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). Plastic is produced under quite an amount of pressure and heat. The heat melts it, while pressure helps in molding plastic in the required size and shape once liquefied by heat. In this process, the molecular structure of the plastic, especially recycled one, may undergo changes or become weak. So, virgin plastics seem to have an edge in terms of a sturdier molecular structure.

Here are a few pros of virgin resins:

  • They seem to perform better in terms of the right design and shape formation as there is no change in their molecular structure when heat and pressure are applied.
  • Depending on your application, if you are looking for extreme precision and accuracy, using virgin plastic may be a better option than recycled.

Here are a few cons of virgin plastic:

  • Piling up of garbage landfills is a major concern.
  • The usage and exploitation of more and more fossil fuels is also alarming, and dangerous for the environment.

Pros and Cons of Recycled Plastics

Recycled plastic as the name suggests is made from used plastic. Resins made out this recycled plastic can be directly used by plastic parts or products manufacturers. It is also called Post-Consumer Recycled Resin (PCR). Beneficial for the environment, this process comprises collecting or buying plastic from user trash. This is an entire process which involves gathering the plastic from user trash.

Here are some pros of recycled resins:

  • Since this plastic is made from used trash, new fossil fuels are not required, which prevents further pollution and piling up of garbage landfills.
  • It thus reduces human-generated non-biodegradable trash, which otherwise may take years to decompose.
  • It helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It saves on costs for the product as well as resin manufacturer.
  • Also, a manufacturer or vendor can brand themselves as an eco-friendly player; using eco-friendly products is gaining traction by the day.
  • Although there are some challenges, its quality is almost equivalent to that of a virgin resin.

Here are some cons of recycled plastic:

  • Food containers and pet bottles containing juices and beverages need to undergo a thorough cleaning process. They need to be decontaminated to remove impurities, food particles, bacterial or fungal growth, dirt, label ink, additives and colors in foods, and other foreign materials if any.
  • Although there are quite a few recycling centers and the related infrastructure across the US, more needs to be done in this segment. In some places, the challenges start from the gathering process.
  • There are challenges and legal implications associated with recycled plastic being used for food packaging.
  • There may be certain cosmetic issues such as yellow tinting, gels or black flecks in the recycled material.

Commonly Used Recyclable Forms of Resins

In a way, it is good that there are increasing number of manufacturers, researchers, and experts advocating the use of recycled plastic. The most widely used recyclable forms of resins are:

  • Polyethylene terephthalate
  • Polystyrene
  • Polyvinyl chloride
  • Low-density polyethylene
  • Polypropylene
  • High-density polyethylene

So, considering the pros and cons of both virgin as well as recycled resins, hopefully the number of manufacturers buying regrind plastic would increase. Admittedly, recycled plastics may not be applicable everywhere and virgin plastics will always have certain applications. To conclude, virgin plastics cannot be totally eliminated; however, the applications of recycled plastics can be increased. If you are a plastic product or component manufacturer, whichever type of plastic you want to buy, ensure you buy it from a reputed source. MidContinent Plastics is one of the leading suppliers of environmentally-friendly resins and has a market presence for over three decades.

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