Ever imagine what happens to all the soda bottles you turn in at the recycling center? The production of plastic recycled railway ties is just one way plastic is being reused.
How Are Recycled Railway Ties Made?
Amazingly, it takes 1,200 plastic bottles to make just one 200-pound railway tie. The American Chemistry Counsel offers the following explanation on how bottles are recycled into railway ties.
First, the plastic bottles are picked up or dropped off by local government recycling centers. Next trucks take them to recycling plants and bottles are sorted by type. For example, a ketchup bottle or a yogurt container are made from polypropylene. Polypropylene plastics are different from high-density polyethylene, or HDPE. An example of plastic products made by HDPE would be laundry detergent bottles and milk cartons. Finally, soda bottles are made from what is called polyethylene teraphthalate or PET.
Once sorted, the plastic is crushed into a bale to allow for shipping. Every bale weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds that may be formed from up to 7,200 soda bottles. These bales are then sold to companies that process recycled plastic. Each truckload can contain up to forty bales.
Once the recycling processor or the reclaimer has the bales a bale breaker shreds them. The bale breaker then moves the shredded plastic on a conveyor belt and high-tech machines further shred the plastic into small flakes. Next the plastic flakes are washed, rinsed and left to dry. Once dried, the flakes are melted and loaded into an extruder. The melted plastic is formed into spaghetti strands and then the strands are made into pellets. Finally, manufacturers of plastic railway ties purchase these pellets and turn them into railway ties!
Where Are Plastic Railway Ties Made?
One company, Integrico, manufacturers railway ties from recycled plastic. Located in Texas, this company has delivered to the United States alone over 100,000 plastic recycled railway ties. They offer a download of their railway tie product specifications on their website in an Adobe Acrobat format. This company works in conjunction with the American Chemistry Counsel to ensure all plastic recycling techniques are safe.
What the EPA Says
In an EPA memorandum dated as far back as 2001, the commitment to replacing old railway ties with recycled plastic railroad ties was offered to help reduce greenhouse gases. In that memorandum, it was noted approximately ten to fifteen million wooden railway ties were replaced in the United States each year. Because wooden railroad ties are treated with creosote, the EPA felt the chemical hazards from these ties could be far worse than that of plastic railway ties. Not only will this help remove plastics from our landfills, it will reduce the amount of chemicals released into the air in and around railroad tracks. Even railway workers could be spared from diseases caused by harmful chemicals in the replacement process.
Can I Buy and Use Plastic Railway Ties?
Some lumber houses that offer recycled plastic plywood also offer plastic railway ties. They can be used for many purposes around the garden, in workshops, or in home building projects. Call lumber stores near you to find out if they sell plastic railway ties. If not, they can probably refer you to a lumber company that does sell them.
As manufacturers search for more ways to recycle plastic, people must continue to recycle. Even if you don't live in an area where recycling is required, make a commitment to help in the recycling game. Almost all cities, towns, and municipalities have recycling centers, so do your part and haul your plastic. Just think, your soda bottles could someday become a plastic recycled railway tie!