What is cling wrap made out of, and is it recyclable?
Cling wrap, also known as cling film, plastic wrap, food wrap, or the genericized brands Saran™ wrap or Glad® wrap, is the thin, plastic film commonly used for sealing food in containers to keep fresh and delay spoilage. They are used widely in homes, restaurants, catering businesses, and supermarkets, for wrapping and protecting food from contamination and prolonging freshness. Most plastic wrap is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC), categorized as plastic number 3. But due to health concerns regarding phthalates, the chemical plasticizers that make PVC softer and more flexible, and the environmental concerns of dioxins from chlorine, low-density polyethylene (LDPE, plastic number 4) has become a popular PVC alternative.
Some municipalities may accept plastic #3 bottles (your softer, more flexible plastic cooking oil bottles may be #3 plastic). However, #3 films should not be put in the recycling bin — not only is cling wrap usually soiled with food, contaminating other valuable recyclables, but like plastic bags, it’s also likely to jam the machinery at MRFs, costing processing time and money. Unfortunately, cling wrap can’t be recycled along with other plastic films such as plastic bags, either; the chemicals and resins added to make the cling wrap “clingy” and stretchable cannot be removed, making it too complex a plastic to recycle. With those options out, used cling wrap is unfortunately headed for the incinerator or landfill.
The best way to avoid sending cling wrap to the landfill is to limit your use of it. Try to avoid buying food wrapped in plastic — look for fresh ingredients from your local farmers markets or CSA instead, and buy things in bulk to reduce overall packaging. At home, use reusable containers and recyclable, sealable bags for things like meats, cheeses, and other prepared foods that are normally wrapped in plastic. If using cling wrap is unavoidable for you, look into compostable alternatives, like BioBag’s cling wrap, which is made from plant resins.