Can plastic bags go in your recycling bin?

You have arrived home from the grocery store and successfully put away all of the groceries, but you are left with a pile of plastic bags!  We all know that using reusable bags is the Earth- friendly option, but let’s face it, sometimes we forget them at home. Pro tip: Keep some reusable bags in the trunk of your car for future quick stops on the way home.

So, you forgot your reusable bag and now you have a pile of plastic bags at home. You look on the side of the bag and see a recycling symbol.  Huzzah! With one quick motion, the bags are crumpled together and thrown into your recycling bin. BIG MISTAKE!

While plastic bags have a recycling symbol on them, this does not actually mean they are recyclable at your curbside. Plastic bags are, of course, made of plastic, but not all plastics are recyclable at your curbside.

The only plastic items that should be recycled curbside are bottles, containers, jugs, and tubs.  Now, this can vary depending on where you live, so check out your accepted materials list here.   

The problem with recycling plastic bags curbside.

When plastic bags are placed in a curbside recycling bin, they get tangled in the equipment at the recycling processing facility, wasting time and resources that could be used to successfully recover material.  Not only is this inefficient, it also creates a safety hazard for workers.  For this reason, plastic bags are considered a recycling “tangler.”  Find out what other items are recycling tanglers here.

Even worse than becoming a tangler, when plastic bags are placed in curbside recycling, they can become litter!  Plastic bags are extremely lightweight, when placed in your recycling bin – where material is not and should not be bagged – they can easily blow out, ending up in our natural environment.  How many of us have seen that rogue plastic bag floating along the street?!

So, if not recycling, what do I do with plastic bags?

We encourage everyone to use reusable bags as often as possible and remember to recycle their paper bags curbside. But, when it comes to plastic bags, there are other options for recycling and reuse.

Plastic bags make a great bathroom trash bag and can be reused for that purpose.  Additionally, they are handy to have around when your beloved best friend does their business on your neighbor’s lawn (we are talking about your dog of course).  You can also use them to collect used kitty litter.

If your plastic bags are not being reused for bathroom duties (pun intended), they can be taken back to the store for recycling.  Along with those plastic bags, you can take plastic wrap that comes around water bottles and paper towels, plastic bread bags, plastic air pouches, and other similar materials to the store for recycling.  Don’t see the recycling bin at your retail store for these plastics? Make sure you ask at customer service.

Find out what can be recycled in your program here, place a recycling bin right next to your trash bin and keep it plastic-bag free!

Pretty sure you already know what to throw in your recycling bin? Check your recycling knowledge here.