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Because You Asked

Is Cling Wrap Recyclable?

By Recyclebank |

Think you can put cling wrap in with your plastic bags? Think again — this stretchy #3 plastic is landfill-bound.

Dear Recyclebank,

What is cling wrap made out of, and is it recyclable?

–Mariah O.

Dear Mariah,

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.

MORE: Other BioBag products, like compostable resealable food storage bags, are available in One Twine.

Earth 911, Eartheasy, How Products Are Made, Indy Week, National Center for Health Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, U.S. Packaging and Wrapping LLC, Wisegeek

What are some of your ideas to replace plastic cling wrap in your life? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Bonnie W. 4 months ago
    The shower caps that hotels give out make wonderful covers for bowls. They can be used many times before hitting the trash. Also, using the inserts from cereal or cracker boxes have many, many uses.
  • Jeshanah Z. 6 months ago
    Perhaps cling wrap can't be heated to be recycled... but can we find another use for it? Perhaps cut it into thin strips and weave it into rope? It's pretty clingy and I have a feeling this may work. I should try it...
  • tommy b. 8 months ago
  • Marilu K. 9 months ago
    I use wraps made from cloth and beeswax I first bought from "the Grove" then received handmade from my daughter-in-law
    They work great to seal containers, wrap sandwiches and cover ends of cheese, etc. and wash and reuse easily.
  • Sherma E. 1 year ago
    I agree with Mariana --reusable containers. Save some of those glass and plastic jars that your grocery store products come in and you won't even have to buy all that "stuff" which may end up in the landfill after prolonged usage.
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