Plastic bags

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

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 please do recycle them. Just because you shouldn’t toss your plastic bags in your curbside bin 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 look for drop-off spots near you in our Recycling Search.

Feature image courtesy of

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 22, 2016

By 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.