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Cling Film Disposal and Recycling
Cling film is often used in kitchens, wrapped around food to help keep it fresh. This type of plastic wrap also has many more uses though – it protects the skin from chafing after getting a tattoo. Disposing of and recycling cling film properly is essential for businesses and individuals to help protect the planet.
As we use cling film in large volumes worldwide every day, it’s clear that a real effort needs to be made to dispose of it correctly. Cling film waste isn’t the easiest to get rid of in an environmentally friendly way though. Learn how to dispose of and recycle cling film properly in this guide.
Cling film recycling
What type of waste is cling film?
Cling film is a type of plastic waste. It’s often referred to as plastic wrap or saran wrap and is typically made from thin, flexible plastics such as PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) or LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene). Traditionally cling film was made entirely from PVC, but many manufacturers are moving towards using LDPE as it’s a little more sustainable.
Even though cling film is a type of plastic waste, it cannot be thrown away with your other plastic recycling or dry mixed recycling. Instead, it must be taken to a specialist facility to attempt to recycle cling film.
Who invented cling film?
Believe it or not, cling film was created by accident in 1933 by a lab worker named Ralph Wiley. When working for Dow Chemical, Wiley was in charge of cleaning the lab equipment each evening. He found it difficult to remove a layer of film formed on one of the vials.
The layer of film stuck to the surface was resistant to both moisture and chemicals. Unknowingly, he had discovered PVC film. Several years later, the product hit the shelves and has been used for food storage ever since.
What materials is cling film made from?
Cling film is made from either PVC or LDPE plastics. Both products have a complicated history when it comes to recycling. Cling film made from PVC or LDPE cannot be recycled alongside other plastic products, as they’re relatively thin and can therefore easily get caught in machinery.
How is cling film made?
Cling film is made through a process known as extrusion:
- Plastic polymers (PVC or LDPE for cling film) are heated until they reach melting point.
- Once melted, the polymers are blown into a long thin tube.
- Compressed air is blown through the tube, stretching the plastic until it reaches its desired thickness.
- The product is then cooled and rolled into cling film.
Is cling film recyclable?
Cling film is recyclable if it’s made from LDPE. However, you cannot recycle cling film with your other plastic waste or if it’s made from PVC. Recycling cling film is based on density, so any made from LDPE is possible, but it must be separated from other plastic types.
As cling film is often used for food packaging, the chances of contamination are high. Therefore, it must be clean and dry for recycling to be possible. Even then, there are still challenges recycling cling film as it can get stuck in the teeth of normal recycling machines.
Special LDPE recycling machines must be used as these are designed to break the cling film up into smaller pieces and pellets. These pellets are then turned into new plastics and products.
How do you dispose of cling film?
Unfortunately, cling film cannot be stored alongside the rest of your recycling. As a result, it is often advised that consumers throw these products away along with the rest of their general waste. However, as you can recycle cling film made from LDPE, you should:
What happens to cling film after it’s put in the bin?
If cling film is disposed of with general waste, it may be sent to a landfill site. Cling film can take up to 1000 years to decompose naturally. During this time, the products contribute significantly to the overcrowding of landfills and speed up global warming. Chemicals from the plastic can leach, adding to ground, water, and air pollution.
Sometimes, cling film may be incinerated instead – which comes with its own environmental problems. However, if taken to an appropriate facility, LDPE cling film can be recycled in the same way as carrier bags:
- Cling film is placed into a specialist machine, which shreds the plastic.
- The shreds are then turned into pellets – which are likely mixed with new LDPE and reintroduced to the manufacturing process.
- This could be used to form new plastic wrapping. Recycled LDPE is also used to create bin bags and even floor tiles.
What are some eco-friendly alternatives to cling film?
Due to the difficulties associated with recycling cling film (and similar soft plastic products), it’s better to use cling film alternatives within your home or business. You could use glass or plastic tubs to store food, keeping it fresh for longer without requiring cling film. Other cling film alternatives include biodegradable products designed to break down much quicker than plastics.
Can you do anything with cling film instead of throwing it away?
Cling film has various alternative uses in addition to food storage. For example, once cling film is used, you could use it to protect any items from getting damaged during storage. Furthermore, you can also wrap fruits and vegetables in cling film to give them a longer life.
What are the costs associated with recycling and disposing of cling film?
If you produce large volumes of cling film waste, it’s important you consider sustainable alternatives to cling film – and don’t throw it away alongside the rest of your general waste. Disposing of cling film with general waste means it may end up in landfill, and your business will have to pay any associated landfill taxes.
Taking cling film directly to a recycling facility or arranging waste collection or recycling avoids any landfill tax. At Business Waste, we can help you get a better handle over all your waste – cutting down the associated costs accordingly. We can provide you with free access to the appropriate bins and containers to store cling film – you just pay for collection.
How much cling film goes to landfill?
According to a recent report from Keep Britain Tidy, around 1.2 billion metres of cling film are used across the UK each year. Sadly, as the recycling process can be complex, most cling film is sent to landfill sites. It’s currently estimated that 79% of plastic waste products end up in landfill sites or the ocean.
Cling film accounts for around 3% of plastic packaging waste produced in the UK.
As cling film biodegrades, it produces large volumes of toxic chemicals, which can cause significant damage to the environment.
Where can you take cling film to recycle or dispose of it for free?
You can throw away cling film that’s non-recyclable in your general waste bins at home for free removal by the local council or authority. Sadly, you can’t put cling film in your domestic recycling bin though.
If you’re looking for a better way to dispose of your cling film for free, you may be able to take it to your local recycling centre. They can transfer it to the appropriate waste disposal facilities to recycle your cling film. However, do your research as some recycling centres cannot handle PVC and LDPE waste.
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