Are plastic grocery bags and other retail bags recyclable?
Yes, but not in your curbside bin or cart. Take your plastic bags and other recyclable household film back to your local retail store and look for their drop-off bin. Over 18,000 retail locations in the US provide convenient bag and film recycling stations for their customers.
Why can’t I put my bags in my curbside bin/cart?
While a few local programs accept bags and wraps in their curbside collection programs, most do not. Recycling markets require bags and wraps to be clean and dry to be recycled, and mixing them with bottles and containers in curbside bins generally leaves them too dirty and wet. Additionally, bags and films can jam sorting machinery, creating problems for the businesses that sort recyclables.
What are other recyclable household films?
Common household items such as bread bags, produce bags, beverage multi-pack wraps, zip top food storage bags, paper towel and bathroom tissue overwraps, are recyclable along with grocery and retail bags in the store drop-off bin. Generally clear bags and wraps that are not “crinkly” or easily torn are made of polyethylene (PE, #2 or #4 plastic) and are recyclable.
What are the important rules to ensure that I’m “recycling right”?
The most important rule is CLEAN AND DRY! Make sure there is no water, other liquid residue, or food in your bags and wraps when you recycle them. Separate the cardboard from beverage overwraps and put the cardboard in your curbside bin. Also don’t put any plastic containers in the store bins – only bags and films. Printing is OK, but large paper labels should be removed.
Are there some types of bags and films that should not be recycled?
Some specialized bags and films are not recyclable, even though they resemble other recyclable bags. These non-recyclable items include frozen food bags, pet food bags, snack and candy wrappers, and any material with a shiny metal-looking layer or coating on the inside. If it says “biodegradable” or “compostable”, it is not recyclable and should be discarded or composted.
What happens to the bags and film that I recycle?
Much of the plastic bag and film material is combined with scrap sawdust and molded into plastic “lumber” used for decks, piers, and parking lot stops. It is also used to manufacture new trash bags, corrugated pipe, pallets, buckets and containers.
Where can I learn more?
To find a nearby store drop-off location for plastic bags and film, use WRAP's recycling locator.
For a comprehensive list of recyclable bags and film products, visit WRAP's Learn What's Recyclable Tool.
To learn more about the How2Recycle label, which helps consumers identify recyclable packaging, visit the How2Recycle website.