Most plastic bags and wraps are made with materials that are recyclable. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean they can go in your curbside recycling bin. Why? Most facilities that manage curbside-collected recyclables use machines to separate rigid materials like cans, bottles or paper products. Due to their size and shape, plastic bags and wraps end up clogging the machinery. Employees must remove the plastic by hand, which is a time-consuming and potentially dangerous task.
So what can you do with them? They can still be recycled, they just require a different system. Many retail and grocery stores offer free drop-off locations for bags and films to be properly recycled. All you need to do is make sure the bags and wraps are clean and dry, and that you have removed any non-plastic items such as receipts and labels.
Let’s recap some of the “DOs” and “DON’Ts.”
Please DO recycle:
- Grocery and retail bags. (Not in your curbside bin, but at a retail or grocery store with a collection bin. Don’t forget to remove the receipts!)
- Newspaper, bread, produce and dry cleaning bags.
- The outer wrapping from bulk beverages, napkins, paper towels, bathroom tissue and diapers.
- Cereal and cracker box liners. (Unless they tear like paper.)
- Bubble wrap and air pillows. (Pop the bubbles and deflate the pillows.)
- Resealable storage bags. (Make sure they are clean, dry and don’t have any food residue.)
- Poly mailers or plastic shipping envelopes. (Remove the shipping labels first.)
- Document mailing/shipping envelopes such as FedEx Paks or Tyvek® envelopes. (Remove the shipping labels first).
Please DON’T recycle:
- Plastic bags that tear like paper. (Recyclable bags have some stretch to them.)
- Cellophane. (The plastic that makes a “crinkly” sound.)
- Frozen food and pre-washed salad bags.
- Food or cling wrap.
- Candy wrappers. (You can recycle the bag that the candy came in.)
- Snack bags, such as pretzels and potato chip bags.
- Coffee pouches or other resealable food pouches, such as shredded cheese or trail mix.
- Pet food bags.
- Zippered packaging for bedding and garments.
- Biodegradable or compostable bags.
If you come across a bag or film that is not listed above, a simple test will determine whether it is accepted for recycling or not. If you give the bag or wrap a slight tug and it stretches, it is likely recyclable. If it rips or tears similar to paper, it is likely not. When in doubt, don’t include bags or films you are unsure of — toss them into the trash.
Plastic bags and wraps can be recycled into many useful products, such as low-maintenance fencing and decking, building and construction materials and of course, new bags.
So remember, take your bags and wraps back on your next trip to the store!
For more information about plastic bag recycling, visit PlasticFilmRecycling.org.