2022 Recycling Plastic Bottles : step by step guide

In this article, we will show you how to recycle plastic bottles step by step. We’ll also provide some information about what types of plastic bottles can be recycled and what kind of products they can be turned into. Finally, we’ll take a look at the recyclable and non-recyclable parts of a typical plastic bottle. Let’s get started!

What is plastic bottle recycling?

Plastic bottle recycling is the process of turning used plastic bottles after crushing, washing, pelletizing, blow-molding, and injection molding into new products.

Plastic bottles are made from a variety of materials:

Plastic Recycling: Learn How it Works | theSkimm

There are many kinds of raw materials for plastic bottles, before we are ready to recycle them, let us first look at what are the raw materials for plastic bottles.

Usually, you can see a triangular box surrounded by three arrows (we called Resin Identification Code)on the bottom of a plastic bottle and they all have the corresponding abbreviation.

Recycling codes - Wikipedia
plastic recycling code

This means that even if you are not an expert in the plastics industry, you can easily tell what kind of plastic the bottle is made of.

Now I will explain this in more detail below:

1. PET (polyethylene terephthalate)

As the most common types of plastics in life. This material is thin and durable, making it ideal for soda and water bottles.

2. HDPE (high-density polyethylene)

How to Read Plastic Recycling Symbols

It is one of the heaviest plastics and is commonly used to make milk jugs, detergent bottles, and some medicine containers.

3. PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

This type of plastic is found in cooking oil bottles, shampoo bottles, and some food packaging. It’s also used to make pipes and siding for homes.

4. LDPE (low-density polyethylene)

This lightweight plastic is used for shopping bags, some food packaging, and garbage bags.

5. PP (polypropylene)

This type of plastic is often used to make yogurt containers, margarine tubs, straws, and some medical equipment.

6. PS(Polystyrene)

PS is found in disposable hot cups, packaging materials (peanuts), and meat trays…

7. Other plastics

This is usually a mixture of various plastics, like squeeze ketchup bottles, and “microwaveable” dishes.

Why Is It So Important to Identify The Type of Plastic?

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The material that a bottle is made from will affect what it can be recycled into.

For example, PET bottles can be recycled into new bottles, while HDPE bottles can be used to make things like plastic lumber or fencing.

PVC bottles, on the other hand, are not commonly recycled due to the health and environmental concerns associated with the production of PVC.

Step-by-Step Process of Plastic Bottles Recycling

Step 1: Sorting of Plastics Bottles into Categories

The first step is to sort the plastic bottles according to their material type.

You can do this by looking at the triangular box on the bottom of each bottle.

Once they are sorted, they can be moved to the appropriate recycling station.

Step 2. Collection of The Plastic Bottles

File:Bales of PET bottles 3.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Waste Plastic Baler

Bring together in your recycling plant station the plastic bottles you have acquired from your local garbage collection, or collected by your local vendor.

They may be in bulk, or they may have been pressed into plastic bricks.

Step 3: Pre-washing

After the plastic bottles are sorted and sent to the waste recycling plant, the plant performs a simple cleaning of these plastic items.

The cleaning process is carried out by a conveyor belt that transports a steady stream of plastic bottles to a huge barrel-shaped device, where the bottles are pushed forward and drenched with water and tumbling drums in a simple cleaning process, somewhat like a drum washing machine, but with a longer length of the equipment.

The purpose of this step is to wash away the sand and dirt carried by the plastic bottles.

Prevent sand, metal, and other impurities from affecting the subsequent crushing process. It is also a protection for the crusher behind.

Step 4: Label Removing

The label on a plastic bottle can be made from a different type of plastic than the bottle itself.

If the label is made from a type of plastic that is not compatible with the recycling process, it will have to be removed before the bottle can be recycled.

Removing the label makes the recycling process simpler and more efficient.

That’s why we need an efficient label removal machine to remove labels from bottles in large quantities. 

There are many sharp claw knives inside the label removal machine, which tear the labels off the bottles as they rotate and move forward inside the machine. This process removes nearly 95% of the labels.

Step 4: Crushing and Resizing

Crushing plastic bottles into flakes is a very important part of the plastic bottle recycling process.

The high-powered shredder plays a very important role. It can crush 300kg-3000kg of plastic bottles into plastic flakes within one hour, and the size of the crushed flakes can be adjusted by adjusting the knife inside the crusher and the distance between the moving and fixed knives.

Step 5: Further Washing and Separation

The crushed plastic bottle flakes will be mixed with many other impurities such as tiny label fragments, bottle cap fragments containing other impurities, etc.

So the next step we have to further wash these plastic bottle flakes, using buoyancy.

The plastic bottle flakes are sent to a large tank of water, where they are mixed and agitated. The lighter impurities such as PVC flakes, label fragments will float to the surface, while the heavier plastic flakes sink to the bottom.

Step 6: Drying and Collection

Resource: PET Washing line

Next, we will shake and dry the processed flakes and collect them.

Since the cleaned flakes are watery, if you sell them directly, your customers will surely argue with you about the weight of the goods.

Therefore, drying and collecting them is necessary for you to sell them or remanufacture them into other new products.

Step 7: Re-generation

Resource: PET Washing line

Regeneration, or compounding, is the final step in plastics recycling and the first step in recovering plastics.

Reaching this step with plastic waste bottles means you will have a high purity raw material for recycling other plastic products. Plastic recyclers make these PET flakes into pellets that are then melted, extruded, and blown into other new plastic products.


Now you know the entire process of recycling plastic bottles.

You also know that every step in this process is crucial to getting a quality product at the end.

Each step must be done carefully and with precision in order to create a final product that is of the same or better quality than the original material.

We hope this guide has been helpful and that you will recycle plastic bottles responsibly from now on!

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Matt. Lau

Matt. Lau

Hi, I'm the author of this post, and I have been in this field for more than 5 years. If you want to build a plastic recycling line or plastic related machines, feel free to ask me any questions.

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