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

  1. Remove anything inside the bags, such as receipts, stickers or crumbs. All these items will contaminate your bag load.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials


Frequent Plastic Bag Recycling Questions

Additional Reading