High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), also known as plastic #2, is the second most used bottle plastic behind PET (plastic #1.) 95% of all plastic bottles sold in the U.S. are either HDPE or PET…that’s a lot of bottles. Despite this increase in use, HDPE contributes less than 1% of the solid waste in landfills. That means recycling programs are working!
What is it made of?
HDPE is High Density Polyethylene – a tough, strong, stiff resin made from petroleum which is often blown into shape. Its molecular formula is (-CH2-CH2-)n.
What is it used for?
HDPE can be found in milk jugs, detergent bottles, medicine bottles, motor oil bottles, shampoo bottles, frozen juice containers, bubble bottles, coffee containers, and baby bath bottles.
Can it be recycled locally?
Yes! Plastics labeled as #2 are accepted by Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley County recycling programs. Curbside pickup is typically available, and if not, check our maps for drop site locations.
What does it look like?
HDPE is usually opaque, and can come in a variety of colors – though it is typically white. It can also be semi-transparent, like in a milk jug. HDPE feels a little “softer” than PET, and typically won’t “crackle” like a #1 water bottle. Here are some of the samples I collected over the course of a couple weeks – see for yourself:
Why is this important?
If we can’t reduce our consumption or reuse old bottles, our last green resort is to recycle them. Keeping materials out of the landfill is one of the easiest ways to reduce our footprint, yet so many bottles wind up in the trash. In 2001 the U.S. generated 1,980,000 tons of HDPE, but only recycled 380,000. I think we can decrease that with vigilant recycling. Reclaiming this material means it can be used to make all kinds of goodies like drainage pipe, film, wood plastic composites, detergent bottles, pallets, oil bottles, pens, benches, doghouses, recycling containers, and more.
Previously on Go Green: