Plastics Specifications

The specifications shown provide a general guide for plastic bottles and polythene film, although there are no formal agreed specifications for either material.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme has produced the PAS-103 Specification in association with the British Plastics Federation Recycling Council and the British Standards Institute, outlining some of the main contaminants and also the clarification and grading process for plastic material.

The document states that buyers and sellers of recycled plastic should record the source and batch identification of waste plastics, the net weight of the batch, the form of the batch (baled or bagged), the number of units, the form of the waste plastic, the weight, whether it is post- or pre-consumer waste and whether it is obligated packaging.

The quality of the waste is then measured and graded according to the original application of the waste, the main polymer type present, the main colour and presence of any contaminant. This assessment is done visually.

Plastic film

Two main types of plastic film are traded within the UK and most of the film is exported for processing.

While hand-sorting and processing is carried out overseas and some contaminated material will still be recycled, the general principle for plastic film recycling is that the material should be as clean and contaminant-free as possible.

Material is usually expected to be baled in various grades, including natural and jazz; weights are either light or heavy; and in various grades of contamination, from little through to heavily contaminated.

Plastic bottles

Bale Dimensions, Weight & Presentation

Reprocessors will normally only accept material in baled form. The current preferred bale form is 1.8m x 1.2m x 1m, with larger bales too big to be handled by reprocessors’ bale-breaking equipment and smaller balers difficult to store.

Bales should be compacted to a density which ensures safe stacking, loading and transport and which allows for separation of the bales once the bale strapping is removed.

There is some variation in bale weights depending on the polymer type being baled. Based on the specified bale dimensions, bales should weigh between 200kg and 325kg. There are limitations to the maximum bale densities that some reprocessing operations can accept.

Only plastic bottle materials shall be baled. Other materials such as cardboard end pieces or plastic film wrapping should not be used.

Based on the preferred dimensions, the recommended strapping procedure is for bales to be tied off using a minimum of four separate straps.


Bales may be stored externally. Bales should be sited on hard standing and in a location where contamination from dirt, oil and dust is avoided. If the storage area has a poor surface, then bales stacked on pallets will avoid excessive contamination.

Where pallets are used, the supplier should note that the weights of these will be deducted from loads and the additional handling requirements for the reprocessor may limit the value of the material to some markets.

Polymer Identification

PET – Polyethylene Terephalate – soft drinks bottles, water bottles
HDPE – High Density Polyethylene – detergent bottles, milk bottles
PVC – Polyvinylchloride – plastic pipes, outdoor furniture, flooring
LDPE – Low Density Polyethylene – dry-cleaning bags, bin liners
PP – Polypropylene – bottle caps, drinking straw, yoghurt pots
PS – Polystyrene – cups, tableware, meat trays
OTHER – All other resins – Tupperware, Nalgene bottles

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