Metal detectors and plastic

Can Metal Detectors Detect PLASTIC?

Can metal detectors detect plastique

I can’t deny that at the beginning I was wondering the same exact thing as you! The possibility to detect plastic using a metal detector … After some testing and researches I’ve decided to write down this short Post to share with you what I’ve learnt …

… So, can metal detectors detect plastic? No metal detectors  are not designed to detect plastic in all kinds … In fact, plastic composition doesn’t have any metal elements on it; thus the required electrical conductivity to help your device’s coil pick up signals equals almost to zero.

If you want my opinion, fortunately, this is the case. Imagine if your machine can detect plastic … You will hear tones coming from everywhere and anywhere. Thus the actual valuable items you may want to find will be hardly detectable.

In addition, many people use Plastic sand scoop while metal detecting! You can imagine the trouble this would cause if plastic was detectable …

… There are other few aspects related to this subject that I would like to address.

What you can actually detect with a detector device …

Generally Detectors are designed to find all sorts of metals, whether they are ferrous, non-ferrous, magnetic or non-magnetic. This includes, lead, copper, zinc, brass, silver, aluminum and even gold …

… All these metals have enough electrical conductivity to make your devise sense them by generating different tones. The higher the conductivity is, the louder becomes the tones.

There are machines that are adapted for metals like nickel, silver, brass like the Garrett AT Pro (Learn More About it Here on Amazon!) for example.

Other devices are more adapted for more valuable targets like gold nuggets, the Garrett AT Gold (Check it Here on Amazon!) is a notorious example!

There are other detecors that are adapted for all kinds of stuff, they are called multi-purpose, the Minelab Equinox 800 (Check it Here on Amazon!) is a good example …

… As you may’ve noticed, plastic doesn’t belong to this family of element!

For more information about this Topic, you definitely should have a look at the complete list of elements that detectors can find!

Can metal detectors detect Through plastic?

Generally, plastic has zero effect on your machine in terms of the magnetic waves going in and out. So detecting through plastic is totally possible. The only thing that could cause little bit of an issue, if the plastic has a metal attachment on it … Otherwise, no issue at all.

You may think that the signals would be affected by plastic. This could be right if the latter has enough particles density. But the reality is plastic density is low enough to not influence signals.

Other types of metal detectors for Plastic (in the industry)

In the industry, it is important to produce plastic elements that are free of metal contaminants. It is also important to do so before recycling.

For that, there are sophisticated metal detectors that use multiple coil systems for deep and accurate detection. The principle is to generate really high frequency magnetic waves to trigger electric current even in the smallest metallic particles.

Possibility to produce detectors for plastic in the future

I believe that if the manufacturers wanted that, they could definitely produce machines capable of detecting plastic. However, there are few problems with that:

  • No audience would ever want to invest in a machine to detect plastic … Doesn’t make sense!
  • They would need to use machines with high frequencies that exceed 100 kHz.
  • The production cost of these high frequency machines is seriously expensive.
  • Such devices would need real advanced rechargeable batteries to handle these high frequencies.

The principles of building such detectors is fairly explained in this paper, Detection of conductivity voids and landmines using high frequency electromagnetic induction, by Ben E. Barrowes E.G. al from 2016.

You can check it in IEEE official website …

Can airport metal detectors detect plastic bottles or bags?

All what was said regarding conventional detectors is true for the ones used in airports. However, the latter has additional features and capabilities to detect according to the material density and shape.

This means that if the plastic bottle or bag has metallic material better yet with high atom density, then it could be easily detectable.


My purpose was not only to answer your question by a straight yes or no. Instead, I wanted to spread your vision of what a metal detector can actually bring to the table. Hopefully you’ve found this short post pretty valuable!

Now I really want to hear from you:

  • How come you want to know if your metal detector can find plastic or not?
  • What machine do you use currently?
  • What are some valuable targets you’ve found so far?

Share your thought on the comment section below, so other will learn as well …

… Finally, if you want to learn more about actual valuable items to find! Then you definitely should check this Gold Detection Post! You will learn some seriously solid info in there …

About the Author

Carissa Harmer

Carissa is the huge metal detecting enthusiast that loves collecting coins. She is also highly interested in other treasure hunting activities like magnet fishing and gold prospecting/panning.