Recycled Granulate at Smile Plastics HQ
Recycled Granulate at Smile Plastics HQ

Plastic pollution is a pressing global issue, and the need for sustainable alternatives has never been more crucial.

Recycling has been advocated as a potential remedy to an appropriate proportion of the problem, of which Smile Plastics fully supports. But, recent warnings from Greenpeace have highlighted concerns regarding the toxicity of recycled plastics. Working in the industry, it’s imperative to address these concerns with transparent practices and communication supporting and championing the wider context of a circular economy.

The problem with plastics

Plastics were the revolutionary material of the 20th Century, initially used for long-life applications but moved into the short-term, single-use purposes we know all so well today. Global reliance on plastic packaging and the diverse range of products that use polymers has led to well documented improper disposal practices and contributing significantly to environmental pollution. The linear model of plastic consumption, with the resultant ‘waste’ often treated as low-value and disposable, resulted in an address of poorly managed lifecycles. Welcome in the recycling revolution.

In a recent report, Greenpeace has cautioned against the notion that recycling plastic is the ultimate solution to the pollution crisis, due to toxic additives and intensive processing. Consequently, recycled plastics can be more toxic than their virgin counterparts, rendering them incompatible with many product applications and having a possible negative impact on the circular economy. These concerns, coupled with the generation of microplastic waste and the exclusion of affected communities, may overshadow some global sustainable solutions.

Smile Plastics: A recycling plastics journey

We at Smile Plastics advocate recycling plastics in a conscious community. With 3 decades of manufacturing experience and investment in impact reduction recycling technologies we continue to learn and improve.

We are a small company and do not operate in the same way large material recycling facilities (MRFs) that are mass processing bulk waste. We work closely within our supply chain to ensure their practices are reliable, ethical and environmentally sustainable.

Our business has been built on celebrating the origin of plastic materials, so we avoid heavy washing and chemical scrubbing processes that often produce high levels of micro plastics. Our unique approach to material origin also removes multiple high heat and shear processes. These processes degrade the polymers molecular and chemical stability and also allows for micro plastic particles to migrate into our natural environments.

Micro plastics are a byproduct of anything that surrounds us, with polymers being used in such a wide sector of industry from chemical polymer additives in paints to car tyres and flooring they will be almost impossible to fully eliminate.

We are committed to creating a zero waste ecosystem. Today we have exceptionally low levels of waste due to our advanced production processes. We also offer buyback options and regional cutting services to reduce waste and the possibility for micro plastics waste to migrate.

Our continuous batch processing techniques uses the lowest levels of heat, 40% less than conventional manufacturing processes and removes nearly all shear action. The vast majority of plastics are inert and only become reactive when exposed to high heat or shear processes. Oxygen, Ultraviolet light and solvents can also accelerate degradation to the molecular structure of plastics. These external influences can render plastics more toxic, impacting their suitability for multiple recycling cycles.

Our 100% recycled plastic sheets are manufactured with a perfect surface finish on both faces and do not require sanding or any additional finishing. These processes create the fine dust micro plastics that are hardest to manage in the environment. Our materials are tested for food contact approval and for fungal resistance to EN1186 and ASTM G21-15 standards.

We also do not add any toxic additives to the raw materials which are tested for likely persistent organic pollutants (POP’s). This helps ensure a REACH compliant product.

We are by no means the complete answer to plastics recycling and agree that recycling needs to work in tandem with a huge reduction in overall plastics production and consumption to manageable levels. Plastics, their creation, use and reuse are a hugely challenging and complex landscape with influential economic and political stakeholders involved. We set out to present a global solution to one aspect of a dramatically growing problem. Greenpeace advocate for responsible processing at every stage, which is in alignment with Smile Plastics mission.

For more information about our material selection process, please get in touch.