What Exactly Is Black Plastic? Is It toxic?

And no, recycling is not an option 😱

Plastics are bad for the planet, and this isn’t new to us at all. While some plastics do less harm, some do more. One such type of plastic is black plastic, a material that many of us have been wishcycling for quite some time. Have you wondered, what happens to our trash or recycling after it is picked up? Or what happens to plastics when they are sent for recycling?

So, in this article, let’s learn more about what black plastic is, whether or not it is toxic, if it can be recycled, and what you can do with it.

What is black plastic?

black plastic items
Goodguilt / Canva

Black plastic is commonly used in making food takeaway containers, spoons, coffee-cup lids, DVD covers, straws, cookware, and more. The plastic gets its black color from carbon black pigment, which in a lot of cases, is produced by burning petroleum by-products. If you look around, you will surely find a few black-colored plastic items around you.

The pleasing aesthetics of black-colored plastics make it a popular choice for electronics. From laptop screens and microwaves to your keyboards or mouse, the popular color in all these items is black. This is the reason there’s a lot of demand for this kind of plastic, and it also constitutes more e-waste. It is why black plastic constitutes 15% of the domestic plastic waste stream, and most of these include single-use packaging and food trays.

However, not all plastics are made to be the same; and that’s the case with black-colored plastics too. While all kinds of plastics are bad for our health, this one in particular, has a bad reputation and is known to have more toxins.

Are black-colored plastics toxic?

is black plastic toxic
jcomp / freepik

Black plastic, unlike other colored, translucent, and clear plastics, cannot be made into any other color. Once the plastic is dyed black, it can only be reused as black. Moreover, black-colored plastics used in electronics undergo a lot of chemical processes, including treatment with bromine, antimony, and heavy metals like lead. This makes these plastics flame-retardant and also toxins-rich.

When we talk about black plastic recycling, they may be recycled to make toys, utensils, thermos, etc. But studies show that the toxic and non-toxic black plastics are not being efficiently separated in recycling facilities. This is contaminating all the products that are being made using these black-colored plastics and making them harmful to us.

It is best to refuse these plastics and dispose of the ones you already own, however, very carefully. And yes, it’s not a good idea to throw away black-colored plastic items in the recycle bin. Here’s why!

Can black plastic be recycled?

can black plastic be recycled

Yes and no! Black-colored plastics can be recycled, but it requires specialized equipment. Hence, your nearby recycling facility, which takes away single-use plastic bottles and other recyclables, will not accept black plastics. This is because these recycling facilities use near-infrared radiation to separate and break down plastics, but the black-colored plastics absorb this light and radiation and do not break down at such low-intensity radiation.

So, even if you put it in the recycling bin, chances are it will either end up in the landfill or in the incinerator, and both these options are not good for the planet. Another reason why black plastic recycling is a big task is the low market value of these plastics, as it is not that versatile.

Hence, you should check with your local recycling facilities whether they accept black plastics, or not. If they don’t, then you have no other option but to dispose of these items in the trash. This means it will end up in landfills and take forever to decompose.

It is, however, best to refuse these items altogether. Instead, take along your reusable containers; for items like electronics, find facilities that recycle e-waste through Earth 911.

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