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What Do You Need to Know About Soft Plastic Recycling?

Studies show that recycling rates are up across the UK, with some nations reaching as high as 56.7%. However, one challenge recycling still faces is the difficulty of soft plastic recycling.

Caring for the environment comes in many forms, and understanding the many types of recycling is critical. What is soft plastic recycling, and how can you improve the process to help the environment?

If you’re curious about soft plastic recycling, we’re here to guide you. Read on to learn about the recycling challenges facing soft plastic recycling. We’ll also look into some ways you can help improve the process.

What Are Soft Plastics?

Many people make the mistake of assuming any plastic item counts as soft plastic. Others believe the definition depends on what the plastic was used for rather than the sort of plastic. However, the true definition of soft plastic is an item you can crumple up in your hands.


soft plastic recycling


Soft plastics are thinner, often elastic plastics. These plastics are often single-use or relatively fragile compared to hard plastic shells or containers.

Some soft plastics include, but are not limited to:

  • Grocery and newspaper bags
  • Cereal box liners
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Stretch or shrink-wrap
  • Bubble wrap
  • Plastic shipping envelops
  • Bread and produce bags
  • Some zip-type bags

One way to tell if something is a recyclable soft plastic is to see if you can press your finger through. If the plastic stretches, it’s likely a soft plastic. Plastics that won’t tear or crumple in your hands are not soft and may not be recyclable.

What Challenges Does Soft Plastic Recycling Face?

With a better understanding of soft plastics, we can highlight the recycling challenges that the process faces. Here are some of the biggest issues in improving soft plastic recycling.

Improved Collection

The first is the manner of collection.

Many people fail to recycle, either out of disinterest or inability. Some communities or flats may not offer recycling. As such, community members are forced to store their plastic and manually take it to a recycling point.



While this doesn’t sound like an immense hassle, it can prove to be too big of an inconvenience for most people. The best way to eliminate this issue is to improve collection.

Some stores will serve as soft plastic recycling locations or collection areas. They’ll often take store-related items like grocery bags. Call ahead to see if these areas can accept your recycling.

Reduced Generation

The best way to handle recycling is to reduce the generation of recyclable materials. Reducing is always the first and most important step of “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Do your best to cut down on how many soft plastics you have. One of the best ways to do so is by reusing them.

Grocery bags are ideal for this. Keep your grocery bags in a container and use them when you need a small, temporary container. They’re ideal for travelling or storing some items.

If you’re storing food items, be sure to sanitize the bags first. The inside can carry germs from the store or your groceries.

Another item you can reuse is items like Ziploc bags. When you’re done with whatever was inside the bag, wash and dry the bag with cool water. You can use the bag until it begins to break.

Ways to Tackle Soft Plastic Recycling

Understanding the challenges is important, but how can we stop the issues? Here are two ways to help with soft plastic recycling.

Clean Recycling

Along with reducing your generation of recyclable materials, you should ensure you’re recycling properly. One issue facing recycling is that much of what we recycle doesn’t truly get recycled. Mostly, this is because items that couldn’t be recycled were introduced to the system.

Contamination in the recycling stream causes everything to need to be destroyed. You can counter contamination by washing your recycling beforehand.

To some, this sounds counterintuitive. Why bother cleaning your trash? However, recycling goes through a different process from your waste.

Much of soft plastic is for food waste, such as bread bags or shrink wraps. Due to this, they’ll often have bits of food or sauce on them. These cannot be recycled, as the food waste will rot during transit, as well as many other problems.

Instead, cleaning the recycling can make it safe and sanitary. Doing so will also stop your recycling bin from smelling as bad as your trash bins.

Understand What’s Recyclable

Another issue is that many people believe anything plastic is recyclable. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. The UK produces about 12 million tonnes of recycled goods, but it’s difficult to say how much of that was sorted properly.

When recyclables aren’t sorted properly, they become much more difficult to process. Mixing paper, glass, aluminium, and plastic can sometimes create too much of a hassle. Smaller companies often throw such loads into the waste bin, while larger companies will sort the recycling.

But if your plastic is full of non-recyclable plastics, sorting is virtually impossible. The best way to counter this issue is by understanding what sorts of soft plastics are recyclable and which are waste.

That said, the laws and codes aren’t the same across every country and territory. Instead, you should familiarize yourself with which types of plastic are recyclable in your area.

For example, did you know that there are different codes used to identify plastics? These are more common for “rigid” plastics, but you can sometimes find them on soft plastics as well.

See what sort of recycling your soft plastics fit into and organize them correctly. Doing so is a great way to jumpstart your environmental care.

Caring For the Environment

Soft plastic recycling is critical for keeping waste out of the environment. Do your best to cut down on your plastic waste by not buying single-use plastics. Reuse your plastics as much as you can and recycle them when they’re at the end of their use.



Interested to learn more about plastic recycling? Be sure to contact us for more information.