Vacuum packaging has a number of great benefits. It protects and extends the lifespan of many different types of foods and products, which in turn saves you money and reduces the amount of waste being generated. However, it is important to know how to properly and responsibly recycle your vacuum packaging, to reduce any environmental harm. With this in mind, here’s everything you need to know about recycling vacuum packaging.  

Why should I recycle my vacuum packaging? 

Statistics show that we purchase around 3.7 million tonnes of plastic products in the UK every year - the majority of this plastic is packaging. However, only 842,000 tonnes of this plastic is then being recycled. Most of the plastic that is not recycled ends up in our oceans, causing severe pollution and harm to aquatic life. Plastic can also have a detrimental effect on our health, as the toxins released during decomposition pollute our soil and water. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to illness and diseases, ranging from cancers to birth defects. It is therefore extremely important for everyone to take responsibility for our planet, by reducing waste and recycling plastic whenever possible. This will help create a healthier, cleaner environment for us all to enjoy. 

What does ‘plastic resin code’ mean?  

According to energy experts at 2ea - “Resin codes were administered in 2008 through the ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System (RIC). From this, resin codes have been placed on almost every piece of plastic.” Basically, a resin code tells a consumer what type of plastic resin has been used to make a product. This helps them identify whether a plastic product can be recycled. Here is a rough guide to what the different resin codes mean:  

  • Code 1 or 2 can usually be recycled. 
  • Code 3 and 7 can generally not be recycled.  
  • Code 4 cannot usually be collected as part of household recycling, but can be accepted by recycling programmes when dropped at collection points.   
  • Code 5 and 6 can now usually be recycled.  

Which wraps and film can be recycled?  

Most plastic wraps and film are made from polyethylene and categorised as resin code 2 and 4. This means they are readily recyclable, as long as the material is clean and dry. However, these items cannot usually be accepted as part of your household recycling scheme, so you will need to deliver them to a drop-off location to be recycled. These are available all over the country and there are collection points at most larger stores of major supermarkets. This includes Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Asda and Tesco. Plastic products made from non-polyethylene resin - such as PVC which is often present in cling film - cannot be accepted and recycled by these recycling schemes. However, there may be some recycling companies that will accept this type of plastic, so make sure you check if there are any in your area.  

What is the difference between plastic wrap and film and a plastic bag? 

Plastic bags are made from thin, flexible plastic material. They are generally associated with retail shopping and used to contain and transport groceries and other goods. Whereas, plastic wrap and film provides protective packaging for a huge range of products - from securing pallets of food, to providing a protective cover for a new piece of furniture. Fortunately, all of these items are generally recyclable.  

Does it matter if plastic wrap and film is wet or food-soiled? 

It is extremely important that all plastic items are clean and free from residue, before they are collected for recycling. Any items that are not clean, will not be able to be recycled as they could cause contamination during the recycling process. This could even result in a whole load of items being taken to landfill. Wet items can also have a negative effect on the recycling process, so make sure you always dry any items properly before sending them off to be recycled. If your plastic product is dirty in any way, just rinse it under the tap and leave it to dry before you deliver it to a collection point.  

Final thought  

Vacuum packaging is a great tool for extending the lifespan of certain foods and products. It offers a number of benefits, such as protecting products and reducing waste. However, it is important to make the effort to recycle your vacuum packaging, along with other plastics, to reduce the amount of plastic making its way into our environment and having a damaging effect on our planet.