The Association of Plastic Recyclers
  • HDPE

    HDPE

PREFERRED

Unpigmented (Natural) HDPE

Natural material has the highest value as a recycled stream since it has the widest variety of end-use applications. It can be easily identified for food-grade end use applications.

Translucent and opaque colors

HDPE is commonly colored so volumes and markets exist for colored material and it is economical to process.

Colors with L value > 40 or average NIR reflectance > 10%

Colored HDPE is considered preferred if it meets the criteria above which will enable the package to be recognized by NIR (near-infrared) sorting technology used in Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and sorted properly to the colored HDPE stream.

DETRIMENTAL

None specified

RENDERS NON-RECYCLABLE

None specified

REQUIRES TEST RESULTS

Colors with an L value ≤ 40 or an average NIR reflectance ≤ to 10%

Sortation testing for dark colors will determine whether a dark colored item will be considered Preferred, Detrimental, or Renders Non-Recyclable.

There is no mechanical property inherent in dark HDPE that makes it unrecyclable. The problem lies in sorting and the physics behind polymer identification. NIR (near-infrared) sorting technology used in MRFs is not capable of identifying many dark colored polymers since the colorant absorbs NIR energy. There are dark shades that may be detected by NIR, and a HDPE label of a different color on a package might aid in detection by NIR. It is not feasible to use manual sorting to separate one dark polymer from another since they cannot be distinguished by sight.

Recent innovations in both black colorants and sortation technology have created the possibility of sortable black HDPE containers. NIR detectable dark/black color concentrates are now available in the marketplace. Companies that are considering such colorants and are unsure of their compatibility with recycling should ask their suppliers to provide APR test results. An item may meet APR Guidance for NIR optical sorting, but may still not be considered recyclable in communities that have chosen in the past to not collect black plastics.

Surveys of reclaimers have indicated that they are willing to purchase bales containing black items. However, it is always advisable to verify markets for new items.

It should be noted that dark colors used in oil bottles and industrial items fall outside the scope of the design guide since they are not typically collected through curbside collection that is the focus of this guidance. Non-NIR sortable HDPE, if collected in a source separated or postindustrial stream, can be reclaimed.

BENCHMARK TEST

SCREENING TEST

Click below for commercially available Colors with L value ≤ 40 that have achieved APR Design for Recyclability Recognition

APR Design® for Recyclability Recognitions

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