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Are Plastic Bags Recyclable? Everything You Need to Know About Plastic Bag Disposal

Are Plastic Bags Recyclable? Everything You Need to Know About Plastic Bag Disposal

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From the grocery bags that bring food to our tables to the heavy-duty bags that clean up construction debris, plastic bags do a lot of heavy lifting in our world! However, as much as plastic bags make our lives easier, it’s also true that they’re a major source of plastic waste. So, wouldn’t it be great if you could find a more sustainable final home for your plastic bags than a landfill — without giving up the convenience of plastic? 

You might be surprised to know that plastic bags actually are recyclable!  While the world still has a long way to go when it comes to recycling plastic bags, almost all of us can start doing it today with at least some of the many bags we use. Follow along with us as we dive into the world of plastic bag recycling.

Are Plastic Bags Recyclable? 

Most plastic bags are indeed recyclable with just a little extra effort. Of course, it’s true that they can’t be recycled via the municipal single-stream recycling services that pick up your curbside bin. However, much like many other materials, including wood and Styrofoam, just because they can’t go in the bin doesn’t mean they’re not recyclable at all!

First off, why can’t you put plastic bags in the recycling bin? Unfortunately, most recycling facilities don’t have the specialized equipment necessary to sort and process plastic films. Instead, workers have to remove and discard plastic bags by hand. Otherwise, the bags can become tangled in the sorting machinery or make their way into recycled paper bales, making the paper unsellable. 

Any way you slice it, plastic bags are a costly headache for single-stream recycling centers. This also means that in most cases, you shouldn’t use a bag when putting your recyclables in the bin. Recycling bags are great for lining your bin and keeping it spotless, but they shouldn’t be used to bag up the actual bottles and cans. 

Where and How to Recycle Plastic Bags

Thankfully, some facilities do have the special setup needed to process plastic films. These facilities then resell the bags to plastics manufacturers who use them to create recycled plastic products, from plastic lumber to patio furniture to recycled trash bags.

The easiest way to find a plastic bag recycling point is to look it up using a recycling search service. Just enter your address, and you’ll see plastic film recycling drop-off points near you. Supermarkets and other big retail stores are the most commonplace to find these drop-off points. Typically, the bag deposit bin will be close to the store’s entrance, so it’s easy to drop them and go on with your day!

Before you take your bags in for recycling, give each one a quick once-over. Like other recyclables, plastic bags need to be empty, clean and dry to ensure that recycling centers can process them effectively. Shake out any debris in bags before recycling them, and allow wet bags to dry. Throw away bags that contain anything sticky or otherwise hard to remove.Order Easy-to-Lift Drawstring Trash Bags Now!carrying grocery bags

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Which Plastic Bags Can Be Recycled (and Which Can’t)?

Plastic film recycling locations typically accept a wide variety of plastic bags, as well as some other types of plastic films. So long as they’re clean and dry, all of the following are recyclable at a plastic film drop-off point:

  • Single-use shopping bags
  • Produce and bread bags
  • Zip-seal bags
  • Stretchy wrappers from bulk packs (such as toilet paper or bottled water)
  • Plastic trash bags
  • Plastic shipping bags (remove the shipping labels first)
  • Bubble wrap and air pillows (deflate them first)

However, there are a few types of plastic bags and films that should still go in the trash, including:

  • Most snack packaging, such as chip bags and candy wrappers
  • Pet food bags
  • Bags from pre-washed salad mix
  • Frozen food bags

Ways to Reduce Plastic Bag Use

Whether or not you have access to plastic film recycling, reducing your use of plastic bags is an excellent way to reduce your plastic footprint! Here are some ideas to get you started: 
  • Try using reusable shopping bags rather than single-use bags when shopping.
  • Choose eco-friendly plastic bags made from recycled plastic for your waste disposal needs.
  • When you need single-use shopping bags, opt for paper bags rather than plastic, as they can be easily recycled.
  • Purchase products in bulk when it makes sense. You’ll use fewer bags and make fewer shopping trips in general!
Shop Eco-Friendly Trash Bags Online Nowplacing used plastic bottles into bag

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Plasticplace is committed to being a partner to our customers in using plastic bags responsibly! See our guide to recycling trash bags to learn more, or shop our whole selection of trash bags. From basics like kitchen drawstring trash bags to eco-friendly trash bags made from recycled materials, we cover all of your waste disposal needs — with free shipping to the lower 48 states!
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