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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Are Plastic Buckets Recyclable?

By Recyclebank |

Plastic buckets are versatile objects for which clever people have found many reuses. Read more to find out our favorite reuses for plastic buckets.

Dear Recyclebank: What can I do with plastic buckets? –Tammy L.

Dear Tammy: You might be able to recycle your plastic bucket, however there are many great uses for plastic buckets you may not have considered yet. See below for our favorite ways to repurpose plastic buckets.

Can you recycle plastic buckets?

Since plastic buckets tend not to be the typical size of most plastic containers going into your recycle, it’s a good idea to check with your hauler to make sure they will accept 5-gallon plastic buckets (or similar) before putting any in your curbside recycle container. They’ll also be able to tell you which recycling identification code (RIC) types they accept.

Most plastic buckets are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE/#2) or polypropylene (PP/#5). The type of plastic your bucket is made of can be identified by looking for the RIC, often found on the bottom of the bucket in the center of the recycling arrows symbol. This will indicate the resin type.

What if the bucket does not have a recycling code? If the plastic buckets are unmarked, check to see if they can be recycled with a local specialty-recycling center or get into DIY mode and repurpose your bucket with a fun craft project!

Repurpose it!

If your bucket is still in good shape, there are so many creative ways to repurpose it. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Make a compost bucket. Just be sure your bucket is clean, has a lid, and wasn’t used to store paint or chemicals. (If it was, you could always reuse a plastic bag as a liner — just don’t compost the plastic bag!) Keep the bucket under your sink or in your garage, and put your food scraps in it. Drop the contents off at a local compost drop-off once a week.

2. Make a handy tote for items around the home.

3. Make a darling trash bin for the living room or playroom.

4. Convert your bucket into a cute decorated stool.

5. Make a mold for pouring a fashionable concrete planter.

Plastic buckets can be really handy around the house. And if you yourself don’t need one, there’s a good chance someone you know could put your plastic bucket to good use. Or a thrift store, such as Goodwill may take your bucket(s) off your hands, so a sturdy plastic bucket can find a new purpose with someone else.


What you can do with your bucket depends on what your bucket has been used for. For example, if you have a bucket that contained paint, you’ll want to avoid using that bucket for holding water or for planting.

And if you’re planting veggies, make sure your bucket is the food-safe kind: RIC numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 are the most stable, and least likely to leach chemicals.

SOURCES: EPA, Society of Plastics, WM

What clever ways have you repurposed plastic buckets and plastic containers?

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Darleen R. 3 months ago
    Fortunately, we can recycle them here!
  • Susan B. 3 months ago
    Since I have 5 cats, I often get litter in plastic buckets. I've given a number of them to a contractor friend who uses them for painting or cleaning. I use several to store dry cat food and toys for the cats. When I find that I have too many lying around, I do put them in the recycling bin - they're easy to clean out and have recycling symbols on the bottom.
  • Carolyn P. 3 months ago
    When a bucket gets a crack and won't hold water anymore, but is still otherwise clean and in good shape, it's great for storing small toys!
    • Barbara W. 3 months ago
      I still use my cracked ones also, for solid things....., like leaves, scraps or even dog pooh.
  • nancy l. 3 months ago
    I use them for yard work. When weeding around the flower beds, pull weeds and place in bucket. Flat sided ones, like kitty litter buckets, I use to pick up leaves to place in leaf bags from raked pile when working alone.
  • Patricia G. 3 months ago
    If you don't need them put out an offer on freecycle and see if anybody needs them.
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