Video: Why Plastic Bags Can’t Go with the Regular Recycling


Lots of people have good intentions when they throw their plastic bags into their regular recycling bin, or bundle up a group of recyclables in a bag to toss in a recycling dumpster. The problem with that? Plastic bags don’t play nice with the machinery.

Watch this video from DNAinfo to learn more:

Like a toddler desperate not to go to daycare, the bags cling tightly to the mother machinery, wrapping themselves around its theoretical legs. At the Waste Management CID Recycling Center in Chicago, this means workers have to cut away the plastic bags multiple times a day, reports DNAinfo, which ultimately costs tens of thousands of dollars while the machines aren’t running and processing recyclables as they should.

The message the facility is hoping to get out: Please don’t include your plastic bags with the rest of your single-stream recycling.

But just because you shouldn’t toss your plastic bags in curbside with your paper and metal doesn’t mean they aren’t recyclable — it’s just a separate process. Check out our article “Yes, Plastic Bag Recycling Is Possible — What to Know” to learn more.

And, of course, if your municipality says plastic bags are A-OK, feel free to toss them into the bin. Otherwise, look for drop-off spots near you in our Recycling Search.

Feature image courtesy of

Recent Posts

Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.

Latest posts by Haley Shapley (see all)