High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is a type of resin commonly used in plastics bottles. It is widely used in the UK for fresh milk bottles, shampoo and detergent bottles.

Of the 306,000 tonnes of plastic bottles captured for recycling through local authority collections in 2011, HDPE bottles make up almost 50% of the stream. In the UK, in 2010, 76% of HDPE milk bottles were recycled.

Key points:

  • The most significant quick win for caps is the use of “tinted caps”
  • Over laminated paper labels of the specification tested were found to leach colour and sediment into the wash process and cross contaminate the HDPE flake
  • There are a number of suggested improvements that food grade rHDPE reprocessors can make to reduce the overall colour hue of rHDPE

HDPE recycling process

WRAP has worked with industry partners in series of pioneering research and development projects to create the worlds’ first process to recycle HDPE milk bottles back into food grade recycled HDPE (rHDPE) for use in new milk bottles. 

Reprocessing facilities have been set up in the UK to produce food grade rHDPE and this has enabled the UK dairy industry to close the loop by manufacturing new milk bottles with recycled content - delivering environmental benefits through a reduction in landfill and reductions in the use of virgin plastics and associated carbon emissions.

Developing a HDPE recycling process >>
HDPE recycling process: commercial feasibility study >>

The dairy roadmap

The Dairy Roadmap (formerly known as the Milk Roadmap) has set targets for the use of rHDPE in new milk bottles of 10% by 2010 (achieved), 30% by 2015 and 50% by 2020.

WRAP has supported the industry to meet the roadmap targets through work such as an R&D project to improve the quality of rHPDE so that more of it can be used in milk bottles in place of virgin HDPE.

Our research and development >>
The roadmap >>

HDPE categorisation tool

WRAP also developed guidance for HDPE milk bottle designers and dairies to maximise the recyclability of HDPE milk bottles. This in turn increases the quantity and quality of rHDPE available to use in new milk bottles. rHDPE can also be used to make many new products, including drainage pipes, recycling bins, outdoor furniture and containers.

Read the guidance and start using the tool >>

Where next?

Want to know more about plastics in Dry Materials? Take a look at our reports, guides, tools and case studies for further information:

Reports >>
Guides >>
Tools >>
Case studies >>