Recycling Plastic Film and Shrink Wrap


Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers: when should you recycle plastic film and shrink wrap?

Answer: always

Only an estimated 5.4% plastic shrink wrap and other LDPE and LLDPE (#4 plastic) is recovered in the U.S. each year - a ridiculously low number, because it's ALWAYS a cost-effective product for manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and other plastic film generators to recycle. Here's why: when it comes to recycling and waste, your company benefits from the lowest combined total costs of collection, baling, and transportation. Take plastic films out of trash containers, and bingo. You've just reduced the volume of solid waste you need to have hauled, lowering your trasportation costs - and ultimately your trash bill. 

Here's how to do it:

Calculate your cost savings by moving plastic films away from solid waste stream:

1. Start by looking in every trash collection point and dumpster and estimate the percent in volume taken up by plastic films. 

2. Use these numbers to estimate how many cubic yards of plastic film you throw out each week. As a guideline:

1 gaylord = 40 cubic feet = 1.5 cubic yards
40 gaylords = 1600 cubic feet = 60 cubic yards
60 cubic yards = 6 ten-yard dumpsters

How many dumpsters are you filling each week?

3. Add your weekly totals together and deduct that from the total on your trash hauling bill. That's how much how much money you can save by moving plastic films OUT of your waste stream and INTO your recycling stream.


Now determine the best recycling method for the plastic film weight you generate

LDPE and LLDPE prices are indexed, and with enough volume you can create a significant revenue stream by selling your plastic films and shrink wrap. 

Figure out the weight of your material:
  • A cubic yard of compacted LDPE weighs 150 pounds
  • A cubic yard of loose LDPE weighs 35 pounds
  • A 30" x 42" x 48" bale of plastic film weighs approximately 1,100 lbs 
  • A semi-trailer load of baled plastic weighs approximately 44,000 lbs
  • Cubic yards per month x weight per cubic yard = LDPE pounds per month
Your total monthly weight determines the best recycling method for you:
  • If you generate less than 2,000 pounds per month, use commercial single stream recycling. Your volume is not high enough to justify other collection or baling equipment.
  • You have a choice between a 42-yard compactor or a downstroke baler if you generate between about 2,000 - 4,000 pounds per month. (2,000 pounds = 20 gaylords = 3 ten-yard dumpsters). The compactor takes very little work and effort, but you won't make as much money as you would with the downstroke baler. The baler takes more of an investment in man-hours but you'll get paid more for your LDPE plastics.
  • At 4,000 pounds or more per month (equivalent to 40 gaylords = 60 cubic yards = 6 ten-yard dumpsters), it's highly cost-effective to assign a dedicated baler with a cage. Collect at various places in your facility and bale as you go. 

Between high landfill costs and competitive market pricing for plastic films, It's good business sense to recycle. You even don't have to make the time to get started - contact us here at Federal International for a complementary analysis. We'll calculate your weight and volume and tell you how much money your company can generate by recycling your LLDPE and LDPE plastics.

Free Plastic Film Recycling Analysis


For more strategies, on increasing your recycling dollars, click on the image below to download our white paper "7 Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue."

7 Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue