Why can't I recycle black plastic or other types of plastic?

The plastic pots, tubs, trays and bottles collected from your red box/bag are sent to a sorting facility where they are loaded onto a conveyor belt and sorted using near infrared sensors. When materials are illuminated they reflect light. The near infrared sensor can distinguish between the different plastics based on the way they reflect light. Jets of air are then used to blow the different plastics into separate compartments.

Black plastic causes a problem because it doesn’t reflect light and therefore cannot be seen by the infrared sensors. Plastic ‘film’ and plastic bags also cause a problem because they tend to wrap around the machinery and cause jams or blockages. This is why we cannot collect these types of plastic for recycling. Other non-packaging plastic such as toys, coat hangers, plant pots, garden furniture, plastic pipes, etc. also cause problems. They contain different plastic types and in some cases, different materials too, such as metals, which are difficult to separate from the plastic. The infrared sensors also find it difficult to recognise and sort these plastics due to their weight and size. 

Please visit our recycling information pages for details about what plastics can be recycled in your red box/bag.