How Many Times Can Plastic Be Recycled? ♻️: Just as we can recycle some items infinitely, there are also other recyclables that can only be recycled a couple of times before they lose too much quality to be considered recyclable. In this blog, we will determine how many times we can recycle plastic and if there exist any breakthroughs to increase the amount we can recycle it – or even make it infinitely recyclable.


When I was young, I have only heard of the term ‘recycling’ twice or thrice. And, from what I understood then, I thought that you could recycle anything infinitely. Only when I grew older did I discover that not everything can be recycled. And certainly, not everything can be recycled infinitely.

YouTube video

>Download Now: Free PDF Business Owners Guide To Commingled Recycling Bin Services


Plastic is one of those materials that cannot be recycled over and over again. The question is, how many times can plastic be recycled before losing too much of its quality? What happens to it after its recycling? Does it become plastic again or does it turn into another item? And, have there already been any discoveries that can allow recyclable plastic to be recycled an infinite amount of times? Below, we will discuss all of that.


A bit about Waster

Before discovering how many times we can recycle plastic, let me share more information about Waster.

We here at Waster provide you with innovative solutions for your and your business’s waste management and recycling needs. Additionally, we provide flexible, 30-day contracts instead of the typical lock-in contracts, which proves to be better.

Click on the blue button to learn more.

READ: Waste Audit 🗑️


Exactly how many times can we recycle plastic?

To answer your question, no one really knows exactly how many times we can recycle plastic. Basically, it all depends on its quality. Some can be recycled only once, others twice and sometimes even three times. Recycling facilities usually turn plastics into fabric materials, which in turn, transform into clothing or shoes. When the plastic-turned-fabric items finally become unusable, it – unfortunately – makes their way to a landfill. There, it will stay for an eternity, unable to break apart for a very long period of time.

Let us compare it to other recyclables:

  • metals – infinite
  • aluminium – infinite
  • paper – around 5 to 7 times

Aside from paper – another tricky-to-recycle material, you can recycle metals and aluminium an infinite amount of times. Why is that?

Well, the answer to that is because of the polymer chain. When you recycle plastic, even just once, its polymer chain grows shorter. If you recycle it another 1-2 times, its polymer chain will become too short and thus lose its quality, making it unrecyclable. So, we can conclude that we can only recycle plastic 2-3 times before it becomes unrecyclable.

In addition, not all plastic types can be recycled more than once. Only durable plastics such as bottle caps can be recycled multiple times.


What you need to remember

Obviously, we need to cut down on using plastic to solve this problem. Remember that even though you can recycle plastic, you can only do so once, twice or thrice.

Fortunately, you can cut down on plastic use easily nowadays. You can find many alternatives in supermarkets, stores and shops quite easily, as more and more people now have become more environmentally aware, which results in more businesses or companies finding alternatives to plastic.

For example, supermarkets offer reusable bags instead of single-use plastics. When buying necessities such as food, you can now opt to buy reusable bags instead of single-use ones. Another example would be drinking water. Instead of buying a water bottle, drinking and throwing it away afterwards, why not buy and bring around a reusable water bottle? The same goes true for cups and straws – instead of getting the plastic ones, you can find better alternatives like metal or even bamboo!


Can we increase how many times we recycle plastic? Is it possible?

Now that we know how many times we can recycle plastic, can we still change that in the near future? Better yet, can we possibly make plastic recycling infinite for a more circular economy? Apparently, yes we can!

A recycling breakthrough was revealed just last year. The University of Bath researchers have created a useful method to recycle plant-based based plastics (PLA).

“Our method of chemical recycling overcomes this problem by breaking down plastic polymers into their chemical building blocks, so they can be used all over again to make virgin plastic without losing any properties,” Jones added.

The researchers recycled plant-based PLA, which is made from starch or crop waste instead of petrochemicals and is used in “biodegradable” food packaging and disposable cutlery and cups. The team has also started trialling a similar process for recycling PET, which is used for drinks bottles.

Using the current methods we have today, which is turning them into granules and moulding them into new products, changes its properties and turns it into a material of lower quality. As a result, manufacturers can only create a few ranges of products. But doing what they did with PLA, recycling less durable plastics multiple times – more than 2-3 times – will become more possible.

Basically, in the future, we can expect to recycle plastic more than 2-3 times – maybe even recycle it an infinite amount of times – thanks to the research done by scientists.



Plastic, even with its many different uses to us, still brings about harm to the Earth if disposed of carelessly. And, depending on how many times it is recycled, it will eventually lose its quality and turn unrecyclable and go to a landfill, instead. Thankfully, scientists started and continue working on ways to make plastic recycling infinite. Waster expects a wonderful future for the environment!

To learn more about recycling, watch this video below to learn more about recycling misconceptions:

YouTube video


Contact Waster today

Are you a business in need of waste and recycling bin services?

If so, please call 1300 WASTER (1300 927 837).  You can also email us at if you have any further questions. Find the best deals in terms of waste and recycling pricing and services!


commingled recycling cta