What Plastics Cannot Be Recycled?
April 4, 2022 at 5:00 AM
What Plastics Cannot Be Recycled?

Plastic materials are used for a wide variety of products around the world. Since 1950, 9 billion tons of plastic have been manufactured for use, with more than 300 million tons of plastic being produced every year. Currently, out of all the total debris found in our oceans, 80% of it is due to plastic waste.

Naturally, eliminating their carbon footprint and plastic waste is a priority for many businesses and people. The recycling rate in the United States is rising as is the interest in understanding how to recycle plastic. But while many believe all types of plastic are safe for recycling, not all types of plastics can, or should, be reused. What’s more, not every recycling facility will recycle each kind of plastic. Even if that plastic is safe to recycle.

To help provide information about the issue, Becher Plastics has created this short guide on what plastics cannot be recycled.

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Low-density polyethylene is a type of plastic you’re well-familiar with. From grocery store bags to soap dispensing bottles, LDPE is a type of plastic that isn’t typically recycled. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be.

Since one of the main uses is plastic bagging, these items aren’t recycled in a recycling facility. The bags can easily get caught in machinery and slow down the recycling process. For this reason alone, many municipalities don’t accept LDPE in curbside recycling bins. However, some grocery stores and businesses set up collection bins for LDPE plastics (labeled as #4) for consumers to use. In addition, many people may reuse LDPE plastics by reusing containers or bags until the bag no longer holds items.

When recycled, LDPE can be transformed into:

  • Floor tile
  • Mailing envelopes
  • Furniture
  • Trash cans


Polystyrene (or PS) is a synthetic resin that’s used for numerous items. PS is a type of plastic we use for disposable cutlery, foam cups, food trays, and other types of food packaging. Another type of PS, known as EPS, is PS expanded. Better recognized as styrofoam, EPS is commonly used for shipping electronics or fragile items, as well as big and heavy items. Packing peanuts are an example of EPS plastic.

Although styrofoam and PS are used frequently, this type of plastic is not commonly accepted by a municipality's curbside recycling program. Technically, since EPS is made of petroleum, it does have recycling properties. However, more than 90% of EPS is comprised of air, which makes the material have a lightweight, bulky consistency.

Meaning that to be successfully recycled, a facility would need to first ground up the EPS materials and then compact the pieces into a denser shape. Most facilities don’t have the equipment to do this, so the material isn’t easily recycled. Additionally, since EPS is bulkier than other types of plastics, it’s more expensive to transport from consumers to recycling facilities.

What’s more, items like coffee cups and plastic forks aren’t easily reusable without more thorough processing.

If consumers want to recycle their EPS materials, some shipping businesses and companies will reuse EPS packing items.


BPA stands for bisphenol-A. It has been used to harden plastics for decades, and as a result, is found in water bottles, food containers, baby bottles, the lining of canned foods or drinks, medical devices, and many more products.

BPA isn’t recyclable due to the chemical, bisphenol-A itself. There are growing bodies of evidence that BPA chemicals can be harmful to human health because the chemical is considered an endocrine disruptor. In addition, BPA may pose health risks such as type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease.

And since it’s not possible to separate the BPA chemicals from its plastic material, BPA plastic is not recyclable.

Reach out to us to learn more

If your business is wanting to recycle its plastics, contact us at Becher Plastics for information about our recycling services.