Are Plastic Wraps Recyclable?

Well, well, well, look who’s back – the plastic wrap. It’s the clingy ex who just won’t go away, no matter how hard we try to break up with it. But let’s face it; we need it. We need it to keep our sandwiches fresh, our leftovers tasty, and our fridge organized. But now, as we become more eco-conscious, we’re left wondering, “Are plastic wraps recyclable?”

The answer is yes, but it depends on the type of plastic wrap and the recycling program in your area. While you can recycle some, just like plastic bags, they are not commonly accepted in curbside recycling programs and require specialized recycling facilities.

Let’s dive into the complexities of plastic wrap recycling, and maybe we’ll find a way to break up with it for good.

What Is a Plastic Wrap?

Plastic wrap is a thin, flexible, transparent, and stretchable film made from plastic materials such as low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

It is commonly used for wrapping and sealing food items to keep them fresh and prevent spoiling. You can also use them for covering containers or dishes to prevent spills and maintain the freshness of the food.

It comes in different sizes and thicknesses; you can find them in most grocery stores and supermarkets. However, it is important to note that some types of plastic wrap may not be suitable for use in the microwave or oven, so it’s important to read the instructions on the packaging before using it.

What Material is Used to Make Plastic Wrap?

Plastic wraps are typically made from a type of plastic called low-density polyethylene (LDPE), a thermoplastic made from the monomer ethylene. LDPE is known for its flexibility, transparency, moisture, chemical, and gas resistance. Some plastic wraps may also contain other materials, such as plasticizers, colorants, and stabilizers, to enhance their properties.

Some plastic wraps are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), but PVC is not commonly used to make plastic wraps for food packaging. Due to its strong and durable nature, PVC is often used in other plastic products, such as pipes, wire insulation, and flooring. However, PVC is unsafe for food packaging, as it can release harmful chemicals when heated or in contact with acidic foods.

Therefore, if you are looking for plastic wrap for food packaging, choosing a product specifically labelled as food-safe and made from materials such as LDPE or other non-PVC plastics is best.

Note that many different types of plastic wraps are available on the market, and the exact composition may vary depending on the specific product and manufacturer.

Types of Plastic Wraps

Plastic wraps are a staple in any kitchen, providing an easy and convenient way to store and preserve food. But did you know that not all plastic wraps are created equal? Several types of plastic wraps are on the market, each with unique characteristics and uses.

From the commonly used Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic wrap to the stronger and more rigid High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic wrap to the newer biodegradable and compostable options, the world of plastic wraps can be both diverse and confusing.

Here are some of the most common types of plastic wraps;

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic wrap

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic wrap is a thin, flexible plastic film commonly used for food packaging and preservation. LDPE is a thermoplastic polymer known for its flexibility, durability, and resistance to moisture and chemicals.

LDPE plastic wrap is technically recyclable, but most curbside recycling programs do not widely accept it because LDPE plastic wrap is lightweight and difficult to separate from other recyclable materials. They can easily get tangled in recycling equipment.

However, some grocery stores and other retailers may accept LDPE plastic wrap for recycling. Look for plastic film recycling drop-off locations in your area, and follow any guidelines for preparing and packaging the material.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) wrap

PVC wrap is a plastic wrap made from polyvinyl chloride, a synthetic polymer. It is often used for wrapping food items due to its ability to cling to surfaces, making it a good choice for keeping food fresh.

However, PVC wrap cannot be used in the microwave, as it can release harmful chemicals when heated. PVC is also not biodegradable, so it can have negative environmental impacts if not disposed of properly.

While PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is technically recyclable, recycling facilities may not accept PVC wrap due to its difficulty separating it from other plastics.

Also, PVC can release toxic chemicals when recycled or burned, harming human health and the environment. In light of this fact, PVC wrap is rarely reused and ends up in landfills, where it might sit for decades or centuries before decomposing.

PE (polyethylene) wrap

PE (polyethylene) wrap is a plastic wrap made from the polymer polyethylene. It is a clear, flexible plastic commonly used for food packaging and storage. PE wrap is often preferred over PVC wrap because it is microwave-safe and considered safer for food use.

PE (polyethylene) wrap is generally recyclable. Polyethylene is a widely recycled plastic; many recycling facilities accept PE wrap. Before deciding to recycle, check with your local recycling program to see if they accept PE wraps, as some facilities may have specific requirements for plastic films or wraps.

Polypropylene (PP) wrap

Polypropylene (PP) wrap is a plastic wrap made from polypropylene resin, a thermoplastic polymer. Fruits, vegetables, meat, and cheese, to name a few, often come packaged in this material.

Polypropylene (PP) wrap is recyclable. Plastic timber, auto parts, and new packaging materials are just some things you can make from recycled plastic.

Polypropylene (PP) is designated by the recycling symbol number 5. This number and the letters “PP” are usually found on plastic containers or packaging made from PP. PP is widely recycled and can be found in various products, such as food containers, automotive parts, and consumer goods.

Biodegradable wrap

The biodegradable wrap is a packaging material designed to break down naturally in the environment, typically within months to a few years.

Unlike traditional plastics, which can persist in the environment for centuries or even millennia, a biodegradable wrap is made from materials that can be broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.

Some common materials used to make biodegradable wrap include plant-based polymers such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), as well as biodegradable plastics such as polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) and polyhydroxy butyrate (PHB).

These materials are processed into various types of wraps, including cling, sandwich, and produce bags.

Not all biodegradable wraps are recyclable, as the materials used to make them may not be compatible with traditional recycling processes. For example, some biodegradable wraps are made from plant-based materials that cannot be recycled in the same way as traditional plastics.

However, some biodegradable wraps may be labelled as compostable, meaning they can be broken down in a controlled environment (such as an industrial composting facility) and turned into nutrient-rich soil.

Read the labelling and packaging of the biodegradable wrap to determine if it is recyclable or compostable. If the biodegradable wrap is compostable, it should be disposed of in a compost bin or taken to a composting facility.

It should be disposed of in the regular trash if it is not recyclable or compostable. Always check with your local waste management facility for specific guidelines on disposing of biodegradable wraps in your area.

Beeswax wrap

Beeswax wrap is an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to plastic wrap for food storage. It is made by coating a piece of cloth or cotton with a mixture of beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin and then using heat and pressure to bond the mixture to the fabric.

Beeswax wrap is a great alternative to plastic wrap because it is biodegradable and compostable and does not produce harmful chemicals when it breaks down. It is also easy to clean and maintain, as it can be washed with soap and water and air-dried.

While beeswax wrap is a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap, it is not typically recyclable in the same way that plastic is because it is made from natural materials.

However, you can still repurpose, or compost beeswax wraps at the end of their life cycle.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic wrap

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic wrap is a type of plastic film that is stronger and more rigid than low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic wrap. It is commonly used for industrial packaging and transportation, and it can also be used for food storage and preservation.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic wrap is not widely recyclable due to its lightweight nature, difficulty separating from other materials, and limited demand for recycled HDPE plastic wrap.

However, some specialized facilities that accept plastic film materials may be able to recycle HDPE plastic wrap.

If you can’t recycle HDPE plastic wrap, it’s important to dispose of it properly in the trash.

Why is it Somehow Difficult to Recycle Plastic Wraps

Type of plastic. Plastic wraps are typically made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which can be difficult to recycle. LDPE is a lightweight, flexible plastic that can easily become contaminated with food or other materials, making recycling more difficult.

Contamination. Plastic wraps are often used to wrap food items, which can leave behind food residue or oils. Contamination can make it difficult to recycle plastic wraps because it can contaminate other materials during the recycling process.

Size and shape. Plastic wraps are often small and thin, making them difficult to handle and sort for recycling. They can get caught in machinery or tangled, making recycling less efficient. The thin material can also cause problems with sorting and processing.

Low demand. There may not be a high demand for recycled plastic wraps, which can make it less economically feasible to recycle them. Recycling companies may prioritize materials with higher demand or can be sold at a higher price.

Lack of recycling facilities and infrastructure. There is often a lack of infrastructure and facilities for recycling plastic wraps. Some recycling centers may not have the equipment or processes to handle plastic wraps.

Safety concerns. Plastic wraps can be difficult to handle and process safely. Some recycling facilities may not have the proper equipment or safety protocols to handle this material.

Now we know why it can be difficult to recycle plastic wraps times. But here are some tips and guidelines to consider if recycling your plastic wraps ever hits your mind

Check with your local recycling center: Most communities have a recycling center that accepts plastic wraps. Check their website or call them to find out what types of plastic wraps they accept and how to prepare them for recycling.

Look for drop-off locations: Some grocery stores, retailers, and other organizations have drop-off locations for plastic wraps. You can use websites like to search for drop-off locations near you.

Check with your municipality: Some cities and towns have curbside recycling programs that accept plastic wraps. Contact your local waste management department to determine if they accept plastic wraps and their guidelines.

Consider reusing or reducing: Instead of throwing away plastic wraps, consider reusing them or using alternative options like beeswax wraps or reusable containers. This will reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills.

Finding ways to reuse or repurpose plastic wraps can help reduce waste and extend its lifespan. Here are some ideas on how you can repurpose or reuse your plastic wraps  if they get rejected in the recycling facilities;

Cover food. You can still use plastic wraps to cover food and keep it fresh. After use, rinse the plastic wrap with water and let it air dry. This way, you can reuse it multiple times.

Protect fragile items.  You can use plastic wraps to protect fragile items during transportation or storage. The plastic wrap can act as a protective barrier and prevent damage to the item.

Make a waterproof pouch. You can use plastic wraps to make a waterproof pouch for your phone, money, or other small items. Simply fold the plastic wrap into a pouch and secure the edges with tape.

Create art. If you love art, here is a go-to raw material. Plastic wraps can be used to create unique and colorful art. You can use markers, paint, or other materials to decorate the plastic wrap and create interesting patterns.

Line drawers and shelves.  You can use plastic wraps to line drawers and shelves to protect them from spills and stains. The plastic wrap can be easily removed and replaced when needed.

Make planters. You can use plastic wraps to make small planters for your herbs or succulents. Simply line a small container with plastic wrap and add soil and your plant.

Donate to animal shelters. Some animal shelters may accept clean plastic wraps as bedding for their animals. Some animal shelters often have specific needs and requests, so it may be a good idea to reach out to the shelter beforehand to see if they need plastic wraps or have any specific donation guidelines.

Are Plastic Wraps Biodegradable?

Not all plastic wraps are biodegradable. Most traditional plastic wraps are made from non-biodegradable materials such as LDPE, which decompose in the environment for hundreds of years.

However, biodegradable plastic wraps on the market are designed to break down more quickly and safely than traditional plastic wraps. These biodegradable wraps are typically made from plant-based materials such as cornstarch or cellulose, and they are designed to decompose more quickly in a composting environment.

It’s important to note that even biodegradable plastic wraps may not be the best choice for the environment, as they may still contribute to pollution and waste. The most sustainable option is reducing single-use plastics like plastic wraps and reusable alternatives such as beeswax wraps or glass containers.

Can You Put Plastic Wraps in the Recycling?

Traditional plastic wraps cannot be recycled in most curbside recycling programs. This is because they are often made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which is difficult to recycle and not commonly accepted in curbside recycling programs.

However, some specialized recycling programs may accept plastic wraps for recycling. For example, some grocery stores have collection bins for plastic wraps, which are then sent to specialized recycling facilities that can process them into new products such as plastic lumber or decking.

It’s important to check with your local recycling program or waste management facility to see if they accept plastic wraps for recycling and, if not, to dispose of them properly in the regular trash. Remember, reducing single-use plastics like plastic wraps is the most sustainable option.

Are Plastic Wraps Around Water Bottles Can Be Recycled?

The plastic wraps around water bottles are typically made from a type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and are often recyclable in curbside recycling programs.

Check with your local recycling program to see if they accept plastic wraps made from PET for recycling. Some recycling programs may require you to remove the plastic wrap from the bottle before recycling, while others may accept the wrap and the bottle together.

If your local recycling program does not accept plastic wraps made from PET, you can consider recycling them through a specialized recycling program. Some retailers, such as grocery stores or big-box stores, have collection bins for plastic wraps made from PET, which can be recycled into new products such as carpets or clothing.

As always, remember that reducing the use of single-use plastics like water bottles and their wraps is the most sustainable option. If possible, consider using a refillable water bottle or choosing beverages that come in glass or aluminum containers, which are more easily recyclable.

How Long Do Plastic Wraps Take to Decay?

Plastic wraps can take 10 to 1,000 years to fully decompose, depending on the type of plastic and the environmental conditions.

Most plastic wraps are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which can take up to several hundred years to break down in the environment because LDPE is a non-biodegradable material, meaning bacteria or other natural processes cannot decompose it.

Are The Plastic Wraps Compostable?

Not all plastic wraps are compostable. Some plastic wraps are made from biodegradable materials, which means they can break down naturally over time, but they may not fully decompose into organic matter suitable for composting.

On the other hand, compostable plastic wraps are made from materials that can fully biodegrade in a composting environment, leaving behind only organic matter and no harmful residue. These materials may include plant-based plastics such as PLA (polylactic acid) made from cornstarch or PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates), produced by bacteria.

If you want to use compostable plastic wraps, make sure they are certified by a recognized organization such as the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) or the Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA) to ensure they meet specific compostability standards.

Compostable plastics should be disposed of in a commercial composting facility, where they can be processed properly. They should not be added to home compost piles, as they may not break down completely and could contaminate the compost.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are plastic wraps recyclable in Toronto?

In Toronto, plastic wraps are generally not accepted in the city’s blue bin recycling program. This is because plastic wraps can easily get tangled in the machinery at recycling facilities, causing damage and slowing down the recycling process.

But, some specific types of plastic wraps may be accepted for recycling through certain programs or facilities. For example, some grocery stores have drop-off locations where customers can bring certain plastic wraps, such as plastic bags, to be recycled.

It’s always best to check with your local recycling program or facility to see if they accept plastic wraps and, if so, which types and how they should be prepared for recycling.

Are plastic wraps toxic waste?

Plastic wraps can be considered a type of toxic waste, depending on how they are disposed of and the specific materials they are made of. Many plastic wraps are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or other plastic materials containing harmful chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which can leach out of the plastic and contaminate the environment.

If plastic wraps are not properly disposed of or recycled, they can end up in landfills, releasing toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater. When plastic wraps are burned, they can release toxic fumes and chemicals into the air, harming human health and the environment.

Can You Recycle Plastic Wrap with Plastic Bags?

No, plastic wrap cannot be recycled with plastic bags. Plastic wrap is made from a different type of plastic than plastic bags and requires a different recycling process. Plastic bags are typically made from #2 or #4 plastics, which are high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or low-density polyethylene (LDPE), respectively. In contrast, plastic wrap is usually made from #4 or #5 plastics, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polypropylene (PP).

Note that plastic wrap and plastic bags should not be placed in your curbside recycling bin as they can easily become tangled in the machinery at recycling facilities and cause damage or clogs. Instead, some local grocery stores and retailers offer recycling programs for plastic bags and some types of plastic wrap.

Bottom Line

Plastic wraps are generally not recyclable through curbside recycling programs since they are made of a low-density plastic material that most recycling facilities cannot easily separate and process.

However, some specialized facilities may recycle certain plastic wraps, and some grocery stores allow consumers to drop off their plastic wraps for recycling.

Remember, the best way to reduce the impact of plastic wraps on the environment is to reduce their use as much as possible and to dispose of them in the trash when necessary properly.