Can You Recycle Tape Dispensers (And How)

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Written By Georgios Sinis


Plastic tape dispenser with a symbol on the top right indicating it is not recyclable

You can not recycle tape dispensers. While they are made of recyclable plastic (usually #5 PP), most facilities are not equipped to handle them. There is too little volume, and their small size causes issues in the sorting process. 

Disposal Method: Garbage Bin
Plastic Type (#): PP – #5

Please note: Recycling guidelines may vary depending on local regulations and facilities. The information provided here is intended as a general guide and may not apply to your specific location or item. Always check with your local recycling center or municipal authority for the most accurate and up-to-date recycling information in your area.

Typical RIC Symbols Used

#5 PP Plastic resin recycling symbol commonly used in tape dispensers

While #5 Polypropylene is technically recyclable, it is rarely processed.

Plastic recycling symbol RIC #7

The #7 “Other” plastic category includes all other plastic except 1-6. They are rarely recyclable.

Where To Recycle

  1. Use Recycling Locators: Locate specialized recycling programs near you using RecycleNation & Earth911 (US) or RecycleNow (UK).
  2. TerraCycle Mail-In Program: Send your tape dispensers for recycling using TerraCycle. Convenient for Office Supply Stores.
  3. Walmart Recycling Hubs: Walmart stores accept Office Supplies for their specialized recycling program.

Ways To Reduce Waste

To reduce your plastic waste footprint, purchase reusable tape dispensers instead of disposable ones. Doing so will significantly improve your positive impact toward a better future.

What To Do With Old Tape Dispensers?

If your old tape dispenser is still functional, the most eco-friendly thing you can do is keep using it. While using it might not be a daily occurrence, it is good to have one around. You’ll need it when you least expect it, trust me.

Throw it in the garbage.

The most convenient option is to throw it in the garbage. It might not be the most environmentally friendly way of going about it, but there aren’t many better alternatives. The tape dispenser will likely end up in a landfill or Incineration facility.

Use specialized recycling programs.

As mentioned in the “Recycling Alternatives” section at the top of the article, you can use specialized recycling programs that might be able to handle tape dispensers of all types (Scotch 3M, Deli, etc.).

To locate those programs, you can use a recycling locator like RecycleNation & Earth911 for the US or RecycleNow for the UK.

Another great alternative is to use Walmarts Recycling Hubs. They accept Office Supplies, including tape dispensers. You can read more about it here.

If you are a store owner looking for a way to create a Tape Dispenser recycling program, you can use TerraCycles Mail-In Program (not free). They send you a special box to place all your dispensers in, and when full, you ship it back for recycling. 

Why Are Plastic Tape Dispensers So Hard To Recycle?

Plastic tape dispensers are very hard to recycle for two main reasons: profitability and size. They are a very uncommon waste making them not a priority in recycling efforts by the facilities. On top of that, recycling plants can’t easily sort their small-sized components.

A picture of a disassembled plastic tape dispenser with all its small parts visible on the surface of a well-light desk.
All the small parts of a disassembled tape dispenser.

Let’s not forget that recycling is a business that comes with many expenses. The facilities convert plastic items back to raw materials and sell them in order to make ends meet. To achieve that, they need a continuous and predictable plastic waste source that is easy to handle.

Tape dispenser waste volume is minimal, which goes against the “continuous & predictable” principle, and contains multiple small, hard-to-handle parts. I believe this paints the picture as to why the industry widely ignores them.

What Type Of Plastic Are Tape Dispensers Made Of?

Tape dispensers are mostly made of #5 Polypropylene (PP) plastic with some variants using ABS plastic which is part of the #7 “Other” category of resins. They usually contain metallic parts, the most common being the metallic front teeth.

What Is Inside A Tape Dispenser?

I’ve heard this question many times. The most frequent reason people ask me if they can recycle tape dispensers is cause they can hear something rattling inside the item when shaken.

In most cases, this “mysterious” substance is sand used as added weight to stabilize the item and keep it in place. And yes, it is an additional stumbling block for recycling centers since the sand can contaminate the whole batch of recyclable plastic