Black Plastic is SO Five Minutes Ago!

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Black Plastic is SO Five Minutes Ago!


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It’s nearing that time when a lot of us, including myself, start to get ready for another gardening season.  With gardening, comes mounds upon mounds of plastic planters, pots, and bags.  Are they recyclable?

The answer is ‘it depends’ – black plastic is not accepted in the blue box.

Black Materials

Black plastic pots and planters, foam meat trays, and takeout containers belong with regular household garbage, and not in the blue box. Find ways to reuse black plastic planters, or ask the store you purchase them from if they will take them back.

Every other colour planter or pot is fine in the blue box, but they must be clean and have the number 1,2, or 4, 5 or 6 on the bottom. Take back large tree pots to the store or, you can find a way to reuse them. If you have some creative ways to reuse your black plastic, send them to us!

Stack similar plastic planters. Put #1’s with # 1’s, #5’s with #5’s, etc. and put them with your other plastics and metals in the blue box. They’re usually all stamped with a #5.

Handles and hangers are garbage. We can not process them regardless of colour. Remove all handles and hangers from planters and place them with your household garbage.

Black Plastics

Plastic soil bags? Yes they are recyclable, but they must be clean, dry, and stuffed into a bag with your other film plastic bags. Polyweave bags (even if they have a #5 on them) and pet food bags are garbage.

So it’s a little bit of good news and bad news. Yes, gardening pots and planters are recyclable, but they cannot be black, the handles need removing. They must also have a #1, 2 4, 5 or 6 on the bottom, and they must be clean.

Why Can’t it Be Recycled?
  1. Black plastic is a plastic that has been recycled over and over again and is now at the end of its life cycle. It cannot be recycled any longer.
  2. Dying it black has a few purposes:
    1. It hides imperfections
    2. It signifies that it’s at the end of its lifecycle
    3. Facilities with an optical sorter will not see it on the conveyor belt
    4. Black dye is virtually impossible to remove from plastic so it can’t be recycled into a clear or coloured plastic
  3. There is no recycling facility that truly accepts black plastic. If they say they accept it, they are accepting it and sending it to be incinerated.
  4. Because black plastic has very little monetary value, reprocessors sell these containers to grocery stores and nurseries (as an example) will purchase it for their products.

What You Can Do

There are many ways we can help decrease the use of black plastic:

  1. Refuse it. If possible, purchase loose produce or products packed in different coloured plastic.
  2. Reuse it. Pinterest is loaded with ideas to reuse planters. Check them out here.
  3. Pre-COVID some nurseries would take back black plastic planters. Next season, see if this is a possibility.
  4. During COVID, take your own planter with you. Ask the clerk to switch the plants for you.

For more information on what’s recyclable, check out our page on Sorting Your Blue Boxes For Recycling.

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