How is LDPE Film Recycled After It's Used for Secondary Packaging?

Posted on May 28 2015 by Toni Nigrelli-LaFleur

LDPE film for recycling in compactor

Polyethylene (PE) recycling has improved over the past years, thanks to several US based companies that have stepped up to develop new processes and programs. According to a 2015 Plastics Recycling Conference report, recycled PE postconsumer plastic (including product wraps, bags and commercial stretch film) has surged from 11% or 116 million pounds in 2013, to reach a reported total of 1.14 billion pounds. Much of the increase discussed in the report is taking place among small- and mid-sized businesses.

How Does the Process Work?

In order to be recycled, film must be separated. This includes HPDE film from LDPE film, and furthermore clear films should be separated from colored and/or printed film. Film that is not separated can greatly affect the value of the film. Colored or printed film and clear film is processes on different streams in order to eliminate contamination of pellets. For example, clear film that is not separated and processed with printed materials, will create a mixed pellet dramatically reducing its potential future uses.  

In addition, film that contains labels should also be separated from clean film. One U.S company has developed patented technology that cleans these films prior to being pelletized, allowing more film to be recycled on U.S. soil opposed to being shipped overseas.

Next, LDPE film is shredded into flakes with the use of grinders. Once in flake form, the plastic is cleaned removing dirt, contaminants, and other debris. The newly cleaned bits are then dried, melted and pelletized for ease of transportation. In pellet form, the LDPE is either used on its own or combined with virgin LDPE material to produce new end-products. Many manufacturers use recycled LDPE to produce piping, trash bags, sheeting and films for building and agricultural applications, composite lumber, and other products. Recycled HDPE film is primarily used for composite lumber and plastic bags.

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What are the Benefits of Recycling LDPE?

Beyond reducing waste and creating a cleaner world, there are practical benefits to companies that make the effort to recycle LDPE film.

Companies that recycle LDPE and remove the film from its trash stream, reduce the volume of waste needed to be taken away from their facility and their trash bill. Many recycling companies will help set up and organize a recycling program at your facility and pay you for the used LDPE film.

In addition, waste film takes up less space than waste corrugate, meaning less frequent deliveries and recycling pickups and therefore less gas consumed. Lastly, because LDPE is derived from natural gases it uses less energy to produce and recycle compared to corrugate.

If you’re reassessing your secondary packaging and are looking to be “greener,” don’t hesitate to consider using LDPE film. EDL Packaging Engineers is committed to sustainability, and recycles all of its LDPE film used for testing. Our engineers can help assess and identify the best way to incorporate LDPE film into the secondary packaging for your products, whether they are bundled and shrink-wrapped, or picked and placed into a tray for stability and then wrapped. Contact our team to learn how we can help.

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This entry was posted in LDPE