Which Plastics Are the Least Recyclable?


Plastic bags are often made of LDPE.

Plastic bags are often made of LDPE.
Photo: Matt Rourke (AP)

A note: we’re now entering a kind of no-man’s land in the rankings here. While most of the remaining plastic types are technically recyclable, they also run into some serious problems in execution.

China used to take most of these types of plastics (only 9% of which actually were recycled, while the rest were burned, buried in landfills, or just dumped into the environment), and the 2018 ban has left a lot of municipal recycling facilities overwhelmed with material. Not only is it incredibly expensive to recycle a lot of this stuff, meaning there’s not really a market for it, but it’s also very difficult for the average person to figure out how to properly dispose of these items—and, as a result, things are often just thrown away. What’s more, the influx of cheaper fossil fuels—helped by the fracking boom of the past decade—has also made many plastic customers turn to virgin plastic rather than buy recycled material.

Anyway, low density polyethylene, or LDPE (marked by a 4 inside the arrows), is classified by its lightweight and flexible properties. Plastic cling film is usually made of LDPE, along with a host of other items and materials, like trash bags, bread bags, and bubble wrap; a firmer version of LDPE can be used to make laundry baskets, squeeze bottles, and plastic lids.

When figuring out how to recycle LDPE, it again depends on where you live. Some city recycling programs will take the firmer stuff, like certain bottles, making it slightly more recyclable than the rest of the types on this list. However, most places won’t accept softer plastics, like bags. These will have to be dropped off at a specialty recycler.


Source link