4 Common Plastics That Can’t Be Recycled

By Anthony K

Recycling is often touted as one of the steps people should take when reducing their carbon footprint. We all know about separating materials and finding products labeled as “recyclable” or “from recycled material” at the store. The truth, however, is that not everything can be recycled.

Bubble Wrap


Plastic bubble wrap tangles up recycling machinery.


Styrofoam is one of the worst synthetic materials out there. Current estimates say that it never fully breaks down! Not even in a million years. While it is possible to recycle styrofoam, not every processing plant can handle it. And, chances are, your municipality isn’t equipped to process it.

Plastic Wraps and Shopping Bags

The lightweight material can tangle, clog, and perhaps injure recycling machinery, which is why plastic shopping bags and plastic wrap are often not accepted for recycling. But, with the proper equipment, anything is recyclable. Nowadays, some stores are integrating a plastic bag recycling system. Just make sure that you’re putting clean bags in the bin.

Waxed Cartons and Packets

Did you know that paper cartons aren’t really paper? If they were, your orange juice or broth would spill right out of the container. Almost every food carton has several layers in it. Milk, for example, has paper, wax, and even aluminum all lining the walls to keep your food safe for consumption. Because it’s a mixed-material product, most recycling plants can’t handle it.


If you’re uncertain about your household products, ask your municipality about what items they do and do not accept.