Can you recycle shrink wrap?

Recycling binsMy sister recently asked me whether or not she can recycle the shrink wrap she gets on packages sometimes. It used to be that most places wouldn’t accept “soft” plastics like shrink wrap, but that’s no longer true. As recycling programs have become more popular and cost-effective, they’ve expanded in scope as well. For example, Bloomington now accepts plastics in categories 1-6 (that little number inside the recycling symbol on the bottom of most plastic goods).

I did some digging and learned that shrink wrap falls into category 4: LDPE Low-Density Polyethylene. If your local recycling will take 4, as Bloomington’s does, then you can recycle your shrink wrap as normal.

I also learned that some people shrink wrap their boats to protect them in the off-season! Since some places still don’t accept category 4 plastics as recycling, you can buy huge bags that are then shipped to “Dr Shrink,” a manufacturer of boat shrink wrapping. I hear that there are similar programs for airlines as well.

The important part is that you can recycle shrink wrap just as easily as anything else (which might not be that easy if you have a traitor in the house).

I actually had fun looking up all of that, so I’ll extend my Google-fu to non-family as well. Is there anything about living sustainably that you don’t quite get or just don’t know? Leave a comment or send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer. Until the, keep recycling that shrink wrap!

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16 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Linnea said,

    February 27, 2008 @ 11:56 pm

    Thanks! The city of Seattle doesn’t recycle shrink wrap (unfortunately), but apparently a part of the University of Washington does. Maybe I’ll walk by one of the marinas and see if I can’t find some kind of drop box…

  2. 2

    Dana said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

    I never thought I’d miss the days of dividing up my trash in Japan! It certainly did make things clearer, though. All plastic stuff in one bag. All recyclable glass and metal in a bin. All “burnable” trash in another bag. All non-burnable, non-plastic trash in a third. Everybody did it, and the rules were the same in every city. I wish it was simpler here!

    (And I really wish we’d get less junk mail. That’s pretty much all there is in my recycling bin anymore. That, and the 5 different phone books that have all come in the last month. I hate the phone book fairy.)

  3. 3

    Christine said,

    March 20, 2008 @ 12:25 am

    Just what I was looking for!
    I’m starting a eco-friendly chocolate truffle business and wanted to use shrink wrap to seal and protect my truffles but was disheartened by its lack of “greenness”. Now that I know it’s recyclable I feel comfortable proceeding. One of my goals is to help educated my customer (and myself) on sustainable practices. Thank you!

  4. 4

    Rosalie Curtis said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

    I did a bit of checking around and found a web site
    http://www.plasticbagrecycling.org
    I entered the state of Washington and found a company in Auburn that recycles shrink wrap!! They even do a free pickup!! Cant beat that.

    http://www.avocoplastics.com

    check them out.

    Happy recycling!!
    Rosalie

  5. 5

    Say it Green! said,

    June 2, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

    Thanks for posting this – I wasn’t sure about shrink wrap and this is super helpful! We are in Salt Lake City where they take plastics 1-7, and I didn’t know shrink wrap was actually a #4. I actually had been recycling it, then someone told me I couldn’t so I stopped. Apparently they were misinformed and I will be happy to re-instate shrink wrap recycling.

    Hooray for less stuff in landfills!!

    Andy

  6. 6

    Jami Wells said,

    July 5, 2009 @ 11:26 pm

    I just started an organic / green gift basket business featuring hand-made biscotti and was using cellophane bags and wrap, but now that I have found your site, I now know that shrinkwrap is recycleable, while cellophane is not. Not quite sure what I can substitute for the little cello bags, but the baskets will from now on, be wrapped using shrink wrap. Thanks for the info!!
    Biscotti Heaven Gift Baskets and Tins

  7. 7

    Kim said,

    September 17, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

    I work in a warehouse. We are always throwing away bundles of shrink wrap. I’d like to know how to be more proactive in recycling it.

  8. 8

    Kelly Lenard said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 9:52 am

    I am a concierge at a corporate business in Chicago downtown. I am putting together 65 gift baskets that all need to be shrink wrapped. I want them to be as “green” as possible and therefore would like to either wrap them in recycled shrink wrap (if this exists or if there is an eco friendly version) or inform the recipients that they can recycle the wrap. Please let me know if anyone has some super fabulous ideas about wrapping my baskets!

    Thanks!

  9. 9

    Maggie said,

    September 28, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

    I’m not sure about recycled shrink wrap. I received a couple of wedding presents that were wrapped in cheesecloth or tulle and tied with a ribbon so I could reuse the fabric later but that doesn’t provide the protection that shrink wrapping does. I think many of the programs that recycle shrink wrap make it into alternate products like plastic benches.

    There are a few places around that make biodegradable and compostable shrink wraps. I’m not sure what they have available on a small scale and of course the big challenge is that the stuff won’t biodegrade if it ends up in a landfill where there is no air or weather. Here’s one place to consider – http://www.polypack.com/biopack.asp

    Good luck!

  10. 10

    Pascal said,

    October 1, 2009 @ 7:54 am

    I work in a warehouse. We are always throwing away bundles of shrink wrap. I’d like to know how to be more proactive in recycling it.

  11. 11

    philip Franzoni said,

    May 27, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

    I am involved in shipping out about 12 tons of shrink wrap to be recycled every three or four weeks. My question to all is what are some of the things this plastic is being used for? I am very curious to fined out. Thanks in advance.

  12. 12

    Diane Babcock said,

    April 23, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

    I just took the shrink wrap off our windows and was wondering if it was recyclable. I will have to check and see if our transfer stations accept it. Thanks for this information.

  13. 13

    Stephen Miller Packaging Ltd. said,

    October 31, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

    We’re a little behind the green revolution here in Ireland but for industrial applications the recycling of shrink wrap has been an industry standard for some years.

  14. 14

    Ralph said,

    March 2, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

    This whole response smacks of someone who cruised the internet, but really doesn’t have a clue otherwise. Shrink wrap can be HDPE, LDPE, PP, co-polymers of multiple materials, PVC and may other special types of plastic.
    On top of all these materials, there are additives in many shrink wraps that would further complicate re-use.

    If one doesn’t know what the above acronyms mean, then you stand about a zero chance of sorting out the various types of shrink wrap into a clean enough stream for economical recycling.

    I really would like to find a bona-fide success story that lasts beyond a pilot study AND be proven wrong….BUT “SHRINK WRAP CAN NOT BE ECONOMICALLY RECYCLED”

    Next time the responder digs…he needs to dig deeper.

  15. 15

    Bob Stefan (Environmental Dynamics, Inc.) said,

    March 15, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

    “SHRINK WRAP CAN NOT BE ECONOMICALLY RECYCLED”

    Ralph:

    Regarding the above statement, you are very, very incorrect. Shrink wrap can, and is, economically recycled. My company, ED, Inc., recycles over 3 MILLION LBS annually for various, large, food and beverage manufacturing and distribution facilities. If the material is segregated and baled, the rewards of recycling this material are numerous.

    LDPE or LLDPE film, clean, clear, and dry, is worth about 4X what bales of cardboard are worth, plus most companies save an extra $100 – $200/ton in solid waste disposal costs and landfill fees. Therefore, every pound of film diverted from the waste stream saves a company from $0.10 – $0.12/lb.

    If you work in a large distribution center, especially food or beverage, please e-mail me (bobstefan@yahoo.com) or call me, 704-904-8156, I can help you save a bunch of money.

    Take care, Go Green.

    Bob

  16. 16

    gilbert said,

    July 31, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

    I live here in houston texas.i am chairman for our safety comittee and want to know about a place here in houston for recycling plastic wrap,where they can perhaps drop off a bin for recycling plastic shrink wrap waste.
    Thank you.

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