Can You Recycle Cellophane? (Don’t Make These Mistakes)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Cellophane is a thin, transparent material that is made out of regenerated cellulose and is used primarily as a packaging material. Furthermore, it has wide commercial uses in the food packaging industry, but can also be used to wrap other materials and products. 

If you’ve ever come across cellophane you may be wondering, is it recyclable? How can I dispose of this product in an environmentally friendly way? Well, continue reading to find out these answers and more! 

Can You Recycle Cellophane?

Cellophane is made from cellulose, which is extracted from plants and trees and is not a recyclable material, unlike plastic and paper. However, cellophane is 100% biodegradable and uncoated cellulose film typically breaks down in under 60 days, making it a relatively eco-friendly product.

As consumers become more environmentally aware, you may be wondering more about the environmental effects of cellophane and its recyclability or biodegradability. Therefore, read on to learn everything you need to know about the different options to reuse or compost cellophane!

Can You Recycle Cellophane?

Cellophane is derived from cellulose, which in turn is extracted from natural sources such as wood or hemp and then chemically processed. Furthermore, Cellulose film can be coated or uncoated

The uncoated film is made purely of organic matter, while the coated cellulose film is made of organic matter and then coated in chemicals to improve its composition.

However, unlike plastic, neither coated nor uncoated cellophane can be recycled. 

  • Cellophane has to be disposed of in the waste bin or buried in the ground to biodegrade. 
  • While coated cellophane film may take up to four months to biodegrade, the uncoated kind will take only two months. 
  • Because it is not chemically processed, the uncoated kind is more eco-friendly.

Also, consumers should be aware to distinguish between cellophane, made out of cellulose, and polypropylene film, a plastic made from petroleum. 

While they may look identical, they have very different chemical properties. 

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Furthermore, the products made from polypropylene are recyclable, but they are not biodegradable or sustainable, as they are petroleum-based.

How To Reuse And Upcycle Cellophane?

However, just because you can not recycle used cellophane does not mean you can not reuse it.

For example, if you have been using cellophane to wrap food items that are not directly exposed, such as fruits or some vegetables, you can safely reuse it.

In addition, cellophane that has been used to wrap around non-food items can also be used again. 

Therefore, rather than purchasing plastic Ziploc bags, you can reuse cellophane film to store food. 

Furthermore, by doing this it reduces the amount of plastic waste a household generates while maximizing the utility of cellophane film. 

So whether you need to store meat or some other food item, cellophane film is an eco-friendly option for food storage. 

Is Cellophane Biodegradable?

Is Cellophane Biodegradable?

While cellophane is not recyclable, it is biodegradable. 

Further, the uncoated ones where the chemicals are not added will biodegrade about two-three weeks faster than the coated ones. 

Additionally, there are certain procedures you should follow before disposing of your cellophane in your compost bin or on the ground.

Firstly, you should separate cellophane from other packaging materials and make sure to wash off any residue. 

After this, the next step is to cut the larger sheet into smaller pieces and only then throw away these pieces into a compost bin.

However, if you do not have a compost bin, it is recommended that you dig a small hole in the ground and bury the material there.

While uncoated cellulose film takes up to 30 days to degrade, it may take up to two months for complete biodegradation. 

Furthermore, the process is longer for coated cellulose and can take up to three months to degrade and up to four months or longer for complete biodegradation. 

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Therefore, if given the option, you should choose the uncoated type of cellulose to speed up the biodegradation process. 

Also, packaging and wrapping items that are made out of polypropylene may look like cellophane, but they are made out of petroleum. 

As such, they are not biodegradable, but they are recyclable. 

However, cellophane is still an ecologically friendlier option because it is made out of renewable materials and is fully biodegradable.

Is Cellophane Eco-Friendly?

While cellophane is biodegradable and made out of renewable materials, such as wood or hemp, it is not fully environmentally friendly and has some negative effects. 

Further, the cellulose that is used to make cellophane is extracted from wood and may contribute to the deforestation of the planet and the depopulation of many plant and animal species.

In addition, cellophane production requires the use of carbon disulfide, which is toxic and harmful to workers. 

  • Cellophane could also release methane during the waste management process, which is one of the most significant greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. 
  • This happens if the waste company lacks a methane recovery system.

Not withstanding this, cellophane is generally preferred to similar alternatives, such as corn-based plastic wraps and bags or polypropylene. 

The main reason for this is its full biodegradability and the fact that it is ultimately produced from sustainable, plant-based materials, unlike petroleum-based plastics.

This becomes especially important because only about 12 percent of U.S. plastic bags and plastic-based packaging are estimated to be recycled every year. 

Furthermore, because plastic is not easily biodegradable, millions of tons of waste are thrown away each year, often polluting oceans and damaging the ecosystems.

Is Cellophane Environmentally Better Than Plastic?

While cellophane may have similar physical properties to plastic, it is made out of different materials and has a different environmental impact. 

Furthermore, most plastic bags are petroleum-based, which makes them non-renewable and non- easily biodegradable items, however, unlike cellophane, they are recyclable.

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Interestingly, it is estimated that consumers in the United States use approximately 100 billion plastic bags every year, which requires millions of barrels of oil. 

The global number, of course, is even larger. In addition, plastic bags disposed of in oceans are estimated to contribute to the deaths of tens of thousands of marine animals.

Additionally, cellophane bags and other products are preferred to plastic, petroleum-based products because they are fully biodegradable and made out of natural materials. 

Cellophane is also safely compostable and you can safely put it in your composting bag.

Therefore, when possible, cellophane bags should be used over plastic bags to reduce plastic waste that ends up in ecosystems and landfills. 

In addition to environmental benefits, cellulose is also relatively cheap to produce and resistant to moisture and water, making it a perfect material for food packaging and display. 

Furthermore, as consumers become more aware of the environmental impacts of their decision, large producers and manufacturers will follow suit and turn to cellophane as an alternative to plastic.

Conclusion

Cellophane in use today is made out of cellulose, which is a renewable resource that can be extracted from trees or hemp. Furthermore, while cellulose is not recyclable, it is biodegradable and the uncoated version can fully biodegrade in up to two months.

However, unlike other materials, cellulose is not as easily reused or repurposed for a variety of uses. Additionally, because it is used in the food packaging industry, it often comes in direct contact with different food items which makes cellophane nearly impossible to reuse.

Author

  • Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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