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Ask The Answer Person: "Where does recycled plastic in Winneshiek County get sent?"

Posted: Mon, Jun 3, 2019 1:20 PM

Charlie e-mails: "When we recycle plastic locally, is it successfully sold to recycling markets here in the United States or is it shipped overseas?"

The Answer Person turned to Mr. Recycling, Winneshiek County Recycling Manager Terry Buenzow, who provided this answer: "The vast majority of plastics that are viable to recycle are food and beverage container plastics. 95 percent or more of these will have a #1 plastic or #2 plastic on them.

#1 plastic is almost always a beverage container like a water or pop bottle. It is also common as a clam shell type container for veggies or fruit. #1 plastic is polyester and will be recycled into cloth fiber or carpet.

#2 plastic is what milk jugs and soap bottles are made of. It is high density polyethylene and will be made into building materials such as deck lumber. It is also often made into tubing like drainage tile or culverts.

The plastics we never want to see at the recycling plant are plastic bags, bubble wrap, films, and Styrofoam.  There are no truly viable end markets for these kinds of plastic and are a major contaminant in the recycling sorting process."

In addition, Buenzow says the purchasers of plastic determine where it is sent, but the #1 plastic, for instance, is often picked up by carpet companies wanting to use it to make carpet.