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Acrylic or Polymethyl (PMMA) Recycling

Acrylic is a familiar name to a lot of people, but if pressed, not that many would probably be able to come up with more than a couple of common applications or whether it’s recyclable.

So this month, the team at CSH is taking a look at what acrylic is, what it’s used for and whether it can be recycled.

What is acrylic?

Acrylic – also known as PMMA, polymethyl and, more formally, polymethyl methacrylate – is a type of tough, transparent plastic that has become widely used in a number of applications, including as an alternative to glass, thanks to the fact that it is:

  • Strong – acrylic is ten times stronger than glass
  • Lightweight – acrylic weighs half as much as glass
  • Impact resistant 
  • Easy to manufacture
  • Easy to thermoform (shape by using heat)
  • Very clear – acrylic is actually clearer than glass, letting 92% of visible light through, compared to 90% for glass
  • Good at bonding with solvents and adhesives
  • UV resistant – acrylic degrades as little as 3% when outdoors for ten years
  • More affordable than glass

It’s often more commonly known by its trade names, particularly Perspex and Plexiglass, but also Acrylite, Lucite and others. When you see those names, you might start to understand some of its uses.

What is acrylic used for?

Acrylic’s main use is as a strong and shatterproof alternative to glass. That means that it is commonly used in lenses, LCD screens, shed windows, aquariums, secondary glazing, shower doors, tabletop protectors – and a lot more!

However, there are a few more unusual applications, some of which may not be immediately obvious, including:

  • Paint: acrylic paint can be used on any surface that doesn’t have wax or oil on it – including glass, plastic, stone, fabric and leather – and is also fully waterproof when dry
  • Corneal replacement, also known as keratoplasty: a damaged cornea in the eye can be replaced by acrylic, which not only offers clarity of vision, but also protects the inner eye
  • Artificial fingernails: acrylic nails can be easily bonded to real nails and can last up to 21 days, or even longer if touched up after application
  • Submarine windows, aircraft canopies and bulletproof glass

Is acrylic recyclable?

Acrylic is part of the group 7 ‘Other’ plastics, and although it is recyclable, it’s not easy. Your local council won’t be collecting it along with your tin cans, glass bottles and plastic cartons once a fortnight.

If you want to recycle acrylic, it needs special handling and equipment, so your local recycling centre will almost certainly not be equipped to deal with it either. If you have acrylic that you want to dispose of, and you don’t want it to end up in landfill, you’re better off getting in touch with a specialist waste company, such as CSH Environmental

Here at CSH Environmental, we’re committed to recycling everything that we collect if possible, so you can be certain that when you make use of our waste management and disposal services, you’re dealing with a company that takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.

Get in touch with our friendly team now to find out more.

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