Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), otherwise known as plastic #4, was created in 1933 by Imperial Chemical Industries. In 1999, LDPE accounted for only 1% of all plastic bottles in the United States. While this isn’t a lot, plastic #4 does make appearances in our lives…

What is it made of?
LDPE is a thermoplastic made from oil, and its molecular formula is (-CH2- CH2-)n. It’s a tough, strong resin that doesn’t react with other chemicals – probably a good quality in a plastic.

What is it used for?
LDPE can be found in plastic bags, bottles, storage containers, toys, 6-pack soda rings, computer parts, and molded containers.

Can it be recycled locally?
No! Unfortunately, plastic #4 cannot be recycled in the Lowcountry. Hopefully this will change soon – we’ve heard rumors and rumblings from both Charleston and Dorchester counties. In the mean time, try to avoid them when you can – and reuse them when you can’t. Feel free to call your local recycling office (links to the right) and let them know you’d like to have LDPE recycling.

What does it look like?
LDPE can be either translucent or opaque, and is extremely tough. It’s typically flexible, waterproof, and can’t be shattered like harder plastics.  Here is what I collected over a couple weeks:

Why is this important?
Once plastic is created, it’s going to be around for a long time. I guess the best way to keep LDPE out of the landfill ( LDPE is not recyclable in most areas) is to avoid products using it as packaging. Recycling programs need to be broadened to include all plastic resins so LDPE can be reclaimed to make things like trash cans, garbage can liners, envelopes, tiles, furniture, bins, paneling, building materials. Sounds boring, but hey – reducing our impact in every way possible is the only real path to a sustainable future. We’ve got to use less, and recycle more.

Want to learn more?
As always a random roundup of LDPE, and both Wikipedia and Earth Odyssey have good info.

Previously on Go Green:



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