Plastic recycling?

There’s some sort of campaign going on over here in the Netherlands encouraging people to separate their plastic garbage. There doesn’t appear to be any place to actually deliver the plastics, but that’s not the question.

My question is: given the current state of technology, is recycling plastics feasible economically and/or environmentally? That is, is it possible to recycle plastics in some way that doesn’t harm the environment more than just dumping it with all the rest of the thrash, and if so, is it reasonably affordable (if not cheaper than making new plastics)? Also, the information I can find basically only specifies soft plastic containers and the like as eligable for recycling. he campaign’s site is suspiciously unhelpful: and especially this pdf which helpfully shows how plastic garbage is grinded into little pellets, magically turned into new plastic and leaves it at that.

Please fight my ignorance.

I would start with Cecil’s article here: There was another one on recycling feasibility, but I can’t find it with a quick search. Also, you have to realize, Cecil’s research is done in the US, which has abundant space for landfills, and European nations generally have less. That has an effect on cost, as well.

All plastic ends up trash at some point. Recycling plastic allows to to be used for a longer period. The use of the plastic for stuff like exterior deck boards seems to work well. You never get a better plastic than than the original materials, and it will be a muddier color every time because you can’t remove the colorant. Remember that often something labeled as a percentage recycled is just the trimmings and defects of the manufacturing process fed back into the material bins.

This is interesting enough, but I’m particularly interested in if recycling plastics from whatever I’d otherwise throw away makes any sense, not if “rest” bits and pieces get reused from manufacturing, which I would assume is a hell of a lot easier.

I think that’s called “post-consumer plastic recycling”. Here’s a more relevant SD column from 2000, but Cecil basically says that plastic wasn’t really a good candidate back then, but may be with new technological advances.

Then there’s a much more interesting and informative article from Popular Mechanics’s December 08 issue. Some quotes (bolding mine):

Only the last sentence was about the reuse of plastic at the factory. It was just a cautionary statement that recycled didn’t always mean it was collected from consumers.