Dear Recyclebank: Can plastic patio furniture be recycled? –Joanne H.
Dear Joanne: Plastic patio furniture can’t be recycled in your curbside recycle container: Its size and shape make it a likely culprit to jam traditional MRF machinery. However, your waste hauler may accept it, if they offer bulk-waste pick-up or drop-off, as the large items they collect will be handled on a more individual basis.
Before calling your hauler to check on the bulk-waste option, try to find out which type of plastic your patio furniture is so you can confirm with them whether or not they accept that type of plastic in their bulk collection.
Keep In Mind
1. Virgin PP (#5) plastic furniture is technically recyclable, but most likely not recyclable curbside.
2. Recycled HDPE (#2) plastic furniture is most likely not recyclable — because the recycled HDPE goes through a structural change when made into furniture — but is still a good choice because it uses fewer resources to produce than virgin HDPE plastic, and it is durable.
3. If you can’t determine what kind of plastic your furniture is, then it’s best not to try to recycle it, because doing so could lead to contamination of other recyclable plastics.
Donate it instead!
If your hauler doesn’t accept the plastic furniture you’re hoping to get rid of, and the furniture isn’t broken, you have a few options to keep it out of the landfill:
1. Refinish It: A quick cleanup and a coat of spray paint can have some plastic furniture looking much better than before — maybe so much so that you’ll want to keep it for yourself after all! True Value offers a good step-by-step to do it yourself.
2. Donate It: Pack up your old-to-you plastic furniture and take it to a Goodwill or similar donations-based thrift store, so someone else can have a new-to-them patio set.
3. Sell It: Post the furniture set on local community boards: Your neighbor just might be in the market. Try your local Facebook Buy/Sell/Swap groups, or Craigslist, to sell it, or give it away via Freecycle.
Some types of outdoor furniture, such as the simple, stackable patio chairs with the slightly wobbly legs, are usually made with polypropylene; look for a Resin Identification Code [RIC] number (5) in a triangle on the underside of the furniture. In general, number (5) plastics are sometimes accepted for recycling, but the size and shape of the plastic furniture still usually prohibits it from being recycled curbside.
Many popular, plastic outdoor furniture pieces are made from recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE/RIC #2). Though recycled HDPE may not be represented by a number, you might be able to tell a piece of outdoor furniture is made with recycled HDPE by the way it looks: It often has a vague wood-grain texture, but is shinier than untreated wood. Many current styles of Adirondack chairs are made with recycled HDPE.
Lots of small everyday household products, such as milk jugs, are made with HDPE. When you put those HDPE products in your recycling container, they’re often recycled into bigger everyday household products, such as trashcans, or — you guessed it — outdoor furniture. In the case of HDPE, the recycling process is sometimes referred to as “downcycling” because the original HDPE experiences some changes to its basic property types during the recycling process, and can’t be recycled a second time (when it’s in its outdoor furniture form).
Recycled HDPE outdoor furniture’s lack of recyclability doesn’t preclude it from being a good choice, should you be on the lookout for a new set of patio furniture. Products made with recycled HDPE have saved resources compared to products made with virgin HDPE, and recycled HDPE products are known for their durability and longevity, all with the added benefit of requiring minimal maintenance.