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How Recycled Plastic is Turned Into Furniture

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How are plastics made into outdoor furniture and other items?

Many may feel hesitant when considering the prospect of their pillow or sofa being repurposed from plastic bottles. However, what is not commonly known is that plastic items must go through a detailed process of being degraded to their basic components before becoming something else. These processes are collectively known as “downcycling.”

The exact process of downcycling may vary based on what the plastic will be converted to, but it usually follows these basic steps:

  1. Plastics meant for recycling are sorted and cleaned
  2. The sorted and cleaned plastics are shredded into flakes.
  3. After being shredded, they are cleaned again.
  4. The plastics are melted, and continuously stretched and reheated.
  5. Stretched fibers can be compressed into materials such as yarn (which can be made into furniture), or melted into larger panels.

Many materials and items have been developed from this process. A well-known raw material known as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is derived from recycled plastic bottles. According to Britannica, it also has distinct sound-absorbent processes. Due to its malleability, it can be used to create a vast multitude of designs and molded into a number of formations.

Why don’t you see more recycled plastic outdoor furniture?

Many brands choose to recycle/downcycle their plastics by outsourcing to collector companies such as Repreve, which is a supplier to many retailers and fashion businesses. Nearly 15 billion plastic bottles have been recycled by Repreve. However, yearly consumption of plastic bottles alone is projected to reach 500 billion.  While it is becoming increasingly apparent that more recycling and downcycling is needed, doing so will prove to be difficult. For one thing, there is a general lack of awareness about repurposed plastic items.

Recycled plastic items are also more expensive than non-recycled plastic items, mainly because recycled plastic items cost more to manufacture. As a result, consumers may stick to cheaper but more environmentally burdensome products.  Despite these difficulties, the benefits of repurposing plastics and buying those products would far exceed monetary issues. Virgin plastic may be cheaper to make and sell, but downcycling plastics takes almost 90 percent less energy. You can do your part to mitigate this issue by sorting your recyclables and informing friends or local businesses about the benefits of using repurposed plastic items.

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