Recycling acrylic plaques is challenging because they are not commonly accepted at local transfer stations. These clear plastic awards are popular in business and are often attached to a wooden board or metal plate that needs to be recycled separately. Recycling or disposing of acrylics responsibly can help prevent microplastic pollution.
What Are Acrylics?
Acrylics are a type of thermoplastic, known for their clarity, durability, and resistance to shattering. Lucite is a specific brand of acrylic resin made by Mitsubishi Rayon Corp., while acrylic is a more general term used to describe a variety of similar materials. These plastics are lightweight, making them popular alternatives to glass in items like plaques, awards, and other decorative pieces.
How Is Acrylic Recycled?
Recycling acrylic involves breaking down the plastic by heating it to high temperatures, a process known as pyrolysis. Once heated to liquid form, the acrylic is mixed with molten lead to break the chemical bonds that hold the polymers together. The resulting plastic monomers can be made into acrylic sheets used in construction, vehicles, and new plaques and award trophies.
Acrylic mounted on wood stands or backings can be separated from the wood, which can be recycled separately. To find wood recycling options near you, add your ZIP code to this Earth911 Recycling Search.
If the plaque has a metal plate attached, it can be removed and sent to any metal recycler. Depending on your local recycling rules, you may be able to place it in your curbside recycling bin or drop it off at a recycling facility. To find metal recycling options in your area, add your ZIP code to this Earth911 Recycling Search.
Where To Recycle Acrylics
Acrylics can be dropped at or mailed intact to a location that accepts them. Currently, very few recycling programs accept acrylic – add your ZIP code to this Earth911 Recycling Search to find out if you have local options.
Only one company currently offers mail-in recycling for acrylics, Power Plastic Recycling. The company seeks larger volumes of acrylics through a bid process. Another company, Altrium Honors, recently discontinued its mail-in program due to the environmental impact of shipping awards and plaques to its processing facility. It continues to recycle the acrylics waste produced in the manufacturing process.
As with many materials, acrylics suffer from a lack of volume necessary to be economically viable within a region, where short shipping routes can deliver a net positive environmental outcome.
What To Do if Recycling Is Not Available
If recycling is not an option in your area, consider donating or repurposing plaques to schools, community centers, artists, and nonprofit organizations. Alternatively, you can reuse the plaque backing by removing the engraved acrylic plates and attaching new ones for future use.
If you cannot recycle, reuse, or repurpose the plaques, dispose of them responsibly in your regular trash. While it’s not the most environmentally friendly option, it’s essential to ensure that these materials do not contaminate other recyclables in your bin. When disposing of Lucite or acrylic plaques, place them in a sealed bag or container to prevent them from breaking and releasing small shards that can harm wildlife or cause other environmental issues.
Recycling Lucite, acrylic, wooden backings, and metal plates may require a little extra effort, but it is possible to find environmentally responsible solutions for disposing of them.