Regardless of the number on the plastic, post-consumer, dark coloured plastics – specifically black – will be removed from Loraas’ recycling program on January 1, 2020. Black plastic examples include coffee cup lids, takeout containers, protein powder jugs, etc. These dark coloured plastics are being used more readily in the products that we consume, so why are they being removed from recycling programs? To answer this question, we need to understand the recycling science behind plastics that are dark coloured.
The majority of black plastics that are sold to the consumer are a low-quality material and an inexpensive choice for manufacturer use. Unfortunately, these highly pigmented plastics are often already at the end of their life. In order for the products we buy to be recycled and made into new products, a manufacturer must be able to break them down and re-form them; however, each time this is done the pigment darkens and the bonds within the plastic are weakened (WRAP, 2019).
The majority of black plastic containers and packaging are dyed using carbon black pigments. Black plastics are difficult to sort for recycling manufacturers as most use advanced optical sorting systems to determine plastic type. Black or very dark pigments are difficult to identify by these systems and as a result, commonly end up as a residue waste unless they are hand sorted by the employees (WRAP, 2019). Even then, the majority of manufacturers won’t accept black plastics as the plastic’s quality is not certain.
So, what can you do to help? If you have a black plastic container, try reusing it for an alternative purpose. Rotisserie chicken containers, for example, can be upcycled into miniature greenhouses. Black disposable planters can be upcycled into miniature birdhouses. Sturdy black plastic takeout containers can be cleaned out and reused for leftovers. If there is no option for reuse, black plastic containers must be discarded as waste. For more interesting tips about black plastics, follow our social media @LoraasYXE.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme. 2019. Accessed at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/recyclability-black-plastic-packaging-2. Accessed on: 12 December 2019.