Recycling plastics is helping to save energy and landfill space. Recycled plastics are used in new building and construction applications every day. Recycled plastics can be blended with virgin plastic (plastic that has not been processed before) to reduce cost without sacrificing performance. Such recycled plastics are used to make polymeric timbers for use in everything from picnic tables to fences, thus helping to save trees. Plastic from two-liter bottles is even being spun into fiber for the production of carpet—another recycled product solution for our homes.
Although recycling is not best for some plastics (such as those that are soiled), the material can still serve a useful purpose if used in a waste-to-energy system (WTE). This process involves the conversion and recovery of the energy value in the waste material through the application of high temperature, controlled combustion. The recovered thermal energy can then be converted to electrical energy in steam-driven turbine generators for plant use and for sale, or it can be sold directly as steam or hot water for industrial processes and space heating. WTE is a treatment not available for many alternative materials, because they do not release energy as readily when burned.