How to Recycle LDPE (Plastic #4)

Ensure that your LDPE (plastic #4) ends up in the recycling chain instead of the solid waste stream.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

Recycling LDPE (Plastic #4)
Recycling LDPE (Plastic #4) / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

Another everyday plastic, low-density polyethylene plastic, or LDPE, is the kind of transparent plastic you’ll find in things like shrink wrap, produce bags, and squeezable ketchup bottles. It’s oil resistant, chemical resistant, flexible, and transparent, making it ideal for all kinds of applications. And along with these attributes come a few eco-woes as well, making it as problematic for the environment as most other plastics. Want to know more? Keep reading.

Environmental facts about plastic #4

While not the most popular plastic for things like food containers and household supplies, you will know LDPE plastic in the form of plastic bags used for frozen foods and the like. And all of this packaging waste comes with an eco-price:

  • Aliases: Low-density polyethylene, LDPE, linear low-density polyethylene, LLDPE
  • Consumption rates: LDPE plastic is the most common type of plastic used by UK manufacturers at 19.3%. Though these types of plastic bags disintegrate more quickly than HDPE plastic bags, they are also more expensive to make so are not the bag of choice by most retail companies.
  • Pollution: Things like plastic bags pollute our oceans and other wild habitats, posing threats to wildlife. It is estimated that 52% of the world’s turtles have eaten plastic trash.

Where you’ll find plastic #4 in your home

Although plastic bags are perhaps one of the best known uses of plastic #4, there are many other types of consumer goods made with this material:

  • Adhesives
  • Clear plastic bags – dry cleaning, bakery goods, produce, household garbage, bin liners, frozen food bags
  • Coatings in paper milk cartons and paper coffee cups
  • Flexible food containers – squeezable honey, jam
  • Food container lids
  • Ice cream lids
  • Sealants
  • Shrink wrap
  • Toys
  • Wire coverings

What recycled LDPE plastic is made into

LDPE plastics can be recycled to become many new types of products for a variety of uses in your life. Here are just a few of the recycled IDPE end results:

  • Compost bins and garbage cans
  • Film plastic
  • Furniture
  • Garbage can liners
  • Paneling
  • Plastic lumber
  • Shipping envelopes

Tips for LDPE recycling

Ensuring that your plastic #4 ends up in the recycling chain instead of the solid waste stream is easy with these recycling tips:

  • Curbside recycling: Like HDPE plastics, many LDPE plastics are accepted through your local curbside recycling program. Just check with your recycling program office to ensure that this is true. Some, however, will accept things like milk cartons and food container lids, but they will not accept LDPE plastic bags so be sure to clarify when talking to them.
  • Grocery store drop-off programs: Some supermarkets, including Safeway and Lucky Food Centers in the US and Canada, accept LDPE plastic bags for recycling. Check with your local grocery store to see if they have a program in your area.
  • Reuse: In many cases, you can reuse old plastic food containers to store more food, use for kids drafts, store office supplies, and so on. If you can’t recycle these plastics using either method above, look for way to use it around your home so that you don’t send them to the landfill.