How to Recycle Paper Bags

Paper bags can be recycled with other paper items, making them as easy to recycle as tossing them in the bin or taking them to a collection center. Today, essentially all curbside recycling programs will recycle paper bags.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent Paper Bags Recycling Questions

Are paper bags recyclable?

Brown paper grocery bags can be recycled with other paper products, as can their pint-sized cousin, the paper lunch bag.

Those shopping bags you bring home from the department store and other retailers may present a bit more of a problem. Many shopping bags and gift bags are coated with plastic to increase durability, so the best option is to reuse them. The plastic coating means this type of bag shouldn’t go in with your regular paper products for recycling. Check with your recycling provider for local rules, but it’s likely you’ll be told to dispose of plastic-coated shopping and gift bags in the trash. So, whenever possible, opt for reuse instead.

Can I recycle wet or soiled paper bags?

Food is one of the worst contaminants in the paper recycling process. Grease, oil, and other liquids are not as big of a problem for plastic, metal, and glass, as those materials are recycled using a heat process. But when paper products like bags and sacks are recycled, they are mixed with water and turned into a slurry. Since we all know water and oil don’t mix, the issue is clear.

To avoid contaminating your local recycling stream, toss your soiled paper bags in the trash, or remove all soiled portions before recycling the remainder of the bag.

Can I recycle paper bags that have glue on them?

Most adhesives used on paper bags, such as the glue used to attach handles and other components, are water soluble. Any paper mill that is able to process mixed paper can remove these adhesives during the recycling process, but make sure your locality can recycle mixed paper before tossing these bags in the bin. Jump to the recycling locator to find out now.

Do I have to remove any handles from the bag?

If the handles are made of paper, you can leave them on your bag. Handles made from other materials, such as plastic, string, or ribbon, should be removed before recycling your bag.

What are some creative methods of reusing paper bags at home?

Paper bags can be reused for craft projects in the same way you would use any other type of paper. To get you started, try the tried-and-true paper bag book cover for the kids’ textbooks, or transform your paper grocery bags into a shipping envelope.

Not so crafty? Try bringing your paper bags back to the grocery store for your next shopping trip, crumpling them up to protect breakables while shipping or reusing the same lunch bag for multiple meals before recycling it.