How to Recycle Plastic Bags
Most plastic bags are made from high-density polyethylene (#2 plastic), but the thinner-material bags (such as produce bags) are made from low-density polyethylene (#4 plastic). The recycling collection supply is abundant, mostly through collection bins at grocery stores. Use the Recycling Locator to find a drop-off location near you.
Plastic Bag Recycling Preparation
- Remove anything inside the bags, such as receipts, stickers or crumbs. All these items will contaminate your bag load.
- Keep a bag collection bin in your house, such as one big garbage bag for all bags. Since they compact easily, you should be able to fit 50 to 100 plastic bags in one garbage bag.
- Make sure any bags you are recycling have a #2 or #4 plastic symbol on them. If not, you can’t be sure what plastic resin the bag is made from, so you’ll want to reuse it instead, before eventually throwing it away.
Why Recycle Plastic Bags
- Plastic bags are among the most common sources of marine debris, where they can be mistaken as food by birds and fish
- Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, meaning it will take hundreds of years for them to decompose in a landfill
- Recycling a ton of plastic bags (about 450,000 bags) saves 11 barrels of oil
Plastic Bag Recycling Process
Plastic bag recycling involves chipping the bags into pellets. While pellets can then be reprocessed into new bags, they will most likely be shipped to a company like Trex to be manufactured into plastic lumber.
Frequent Plastic Bag Recycling Questions
If you ask a recycling official in the U.S. what is the #1 source of contamination in a city’s curbside program, the answer is almost always “plastic bags.” People see the recycling symbol on the product and assume it can be included with other plastics. Unfortunately, bags are usually a nightmare for the machinery at recycling centers.
When it comes to disposal, both products are very easy to recycle, but paper bags are accepted in far more curbside programs. Paper bags are also an insignificant source of marine debris, and they biodegrade, unlike plastic.
If you’re looking for the most eco-friendly alternative, bring your own reusable bags to the store. They take more resources to produce than paper or plastic, but they should each last five to 10 years.
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- Video: Why Plastic Bags Can’t Go with the Regular Recycling: Learn why plastic bags pose such a problem at material recycling facilities
- Yes, Plastic Bag Recycling Is Possible — What to Know: While plastic bag bans and their usefulness remain up for debate, one thing is certain: Having a robust recycling business around plastic film is good for everyone