Metalized Film Recycling

Can I recycle metalized film (like chip bags, candy wrappers, and other food packaging)? The truth is that metalized film recycling is more complicated than a yes or no answer. Technically speaking, yes, processes exist for recycling metalized film. That does not mean there are always recycling outlets willing or able to accept this material. Here are some questions to ask when determining if metalized film recycling is a viable option for your company.

1. What is Your Metalized Film Byproduct?
From the insulation lining in spacesuits and firefighter uniforms to balloons, party decorations, and food packaging (like coffee bags), metalized film is used for a variety of purposes. Simply put, metalized film is a thin, flexible material with both plastic and metal layers. Commonly, this will be PP or PET plastic and aluminum. However, it’s also possible to use nickel or chromium as the metal and nylon or polyethylene as the plastic. The processes required for recycling your metalized film will depend directly on its material composition. For instance, since PET and PP melt at different temperatures, a recycling processor capable of handling PP based film may not be capable of recycling PET based film. Understanding exactly what type(s) of metal and plastic make up your film will significantly increase your ability to recycle this byproduct.

2. What Layers Exist?
While all metalized film has at least two layers (one plastic and one metal), there could be additional paper linings or coatings which would affect how this byproduct needs to be processed. For instance, some recyclers who focus on recovering the plastic from metalized film may not be able to process a paper layer. It’s also possible to have multiple layers of plastic or multiple layers of metal. The bottom line is that every layer of new material can add a layer of complexity to the recycling process, which could affect the overall value of the byproduct.

3. What Percentage is Metal vs. Plastic?
Not all metalized film contains the same amount of metal and plastic. Determining how much of each material is present will affect how your film is recycled as well as what it’s worth. For instance, if your metalized film contains more than 18% aluminum, it will likely be recycled for its aluminum. On the other hand, if it contains less than 18% aluminum, it might be more valuable to recycle this material for its plastic. Check with your recycler to understand the best options for recycling your specific metalized film.

4. How Much Metalized Film Byproduct do You Generate in a Month?
Metalized film is very light weight. It was designed to be, since it serves as a lighter weight alternative to aluminum foil for a lot of flexible food packaging. However, its light weight makes it a more costly recyclable to transport. Add to this its complex multi-material composition, and the result is that transportation and processing costs for recycling this material sometimes exceed its market value. Consequently, many recyclers (especially curb side programs) do not accept metalized film. This does not mean your film cannot be recycled. However, the quantity and quality of byproduct your facility produces will greatly affect recycling opportunities (i.e. higher volumes of higher quality material are more likely to be marketable). One possibility for increasing value from your metalized film scrap would be to bale this material. However, you should discuss costs vs. benefits with your recycler before investing in baling equipment.

To learn more about recycling your metalized film, contact Northstar Recycling today.