Black plastic disposal and recycling

19th April 2023

By Mark Hall

Black plastic disposal and recycling

It’s common enough to overlook the subtle differences between our plastic but there are actually many different types that come into our lives every single day. For example, you might notice that a lot of frozen meals are packaged in plastic coloured black as opposed to the typical clear or white plastic.
Black plastic disposal and recycling

This small difference has a big impact on its disposal and how it is made. In this article, we’ll cover what makes black plastic unique.

Who invented black plastic?
Plastic itself was first invented by Leo Baekeland in 1907, in New York. This was the first fully synthetic plastic and it was where the term first originated from.

This first plastic was Bakelite. It was a thermosetting phenol-formaldehyde resin that was formed from a condensation reaction of phenol with formaldehyde. Scientifically known as Polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolan, the first plastic was named after its inventor and catalysed the manufacturing boom of plastic.

What is black plastic made of and how is it made?
Black plastic is made using either colouring from carbon black pigments or made from recycled scrap plastic of different colours. These pellets of plastic and/or colouring are melted down to liquid form and set into moulds for trays, boxes, and other packaging.

It is often used for food because it masks colourations and imperfections when on supermarket shelves.

Problems with black plastic waste
Recycling plants use Near Infra-Red technology to identify and separate plastics. This detects the different types and colours of plastic and allows it to be sorted for recycling. However, because of the black colouring in black plastic, the laser technology cannot penetrate it and simply rejects it.

This means that black plastic is unable to be recycled and is sent to landfills across the country to cause environmental damage there.

Black plastic disposal
The UK Plastics Pact has announced plans for the majority of black plastic to be manufactured with detectable black pigments, widely sorted for recycling by 2020.

However, there is still the problem of disposing of current black plastic. We recommend that you contact your local council or visit your local household waste and recycling collection centre who will be able to advise you as to the local recycling processing technology – whether they have new NIR tech which can detect black plastic or not.

Alternatives to black plastic
Wherever possible, you should avoid plastic. It is damaging to the planet and can cause centuries of harm to ecosystems.

If inescapable, you should always choose clear plastic instead of black. This means that your plastic can be recycled and saved from landfills.

Because black plastic is most commonly used in fast food and other food containers, you could look at preparing more fresh meals. Prepare a large meal and freeze it in reusable Tupperware containers. Not only is this cheaper and healthier, but it will be much better for the environment.

Facts about black plastic
• Before Leo Baekeland produced the first entirely synthetic plastic, Alexander Parkes unveiled Parkesine in 1862. This was the first official manmade plastic but was derived from cellulose, making it bio-based.
• Cellophane was invented in the early 1900s by a Swiss textile engineer as a solution to clothing stains.

Where can you take black plastic to recycle/dispose of it for free?
You can take black plastic to your local household recycling collection centre to check that where the nearest plastic sorting plant is that accepts black plastic and can successfully recycle it.