APR BeyondPlastics website Film

Success Stories

Flexible film and bag recycling is successful in over 18,000 U.S. communities through store drop-off collection programs. Local recycling coordinators can visit APR’s Success Stories below to learn more about the programs available locally, and should encourage their residents to recycle clean and dry retail carry-out bags as well as other household film products. While a limited number of communities are able to collect flexible film and bags in their curbside programs, store take-back is a convenient service available to most.

  • Target Stores
  • University of Colorado
  • Emmet County, Michigan

Film Plastic Recycling Case Study – Target Stores


OPERATOR: Target Stores

POPULATION SERVED: Store customers or “Guests”

MATERIALS ACCEPTED: Polyethylene shopping bags and other PE film products as described by the Wrap Recycling Action Program.


  • A front of store, guest-facing bin is provided at all of the over 1800 Target stores in the US.
  • Store generated material from receiving and back of the store activities is also collected by each store.
  • The largest portion of material comes from the back of the store, but guest recycling is an important service provided by the stores.


  • Guests place their recyclable bags and wraps into the guest facing bin at the front of stores. Store housekeeping staff then transport this material to the back roomit is consolidated with other film that the store generates. This film is then transported to distribution centers (DCs) where it is then consolidated and baled with other stores’ plastic film.
  • Target’s plastic film gets turned into composite lumber and Target plastic bags that are located within stores in plastic bag ban states.
  • Target’s plastic film recycling totals are included in their overall recycling tonnages. In 2017, Target stores collectively recycled 16.8 million pounds of material.


The number one challenge is to ensure guests understand that bags and film should be CLEAN AND DRY in order to be recycled. Receipts and other plastic packaging materials, and also food waste, need to be removed prior to placing bags into the recycling bins.


Target makes it a priority to push communication to stores and distribution centers about the execution of this program and how it’s imperative to keep this material out of the trash. Field team members who execute this process well are recognized. Periodically, the retailer will post results of the program on social media.

Encouraging end-market demand for collected material is just as important as providing collection! Target is one of the original companies to commit to APR’s Demand Champions Campaign, and as such has pledged to increase the amount of postconsumer recycled plastic (PCR) used in its products. Target is also committed to a leading role in developing new end uses for PCR.


Target relies on bin presence and signage to educate guest about the bag and film recycling opportunity provided by their stores.

Target bin Group    Target Bin 2   Target Bin 3



Lauren Standal
Senior Program Owner – Waste Minimization
Property Management | Target Properties
Target Corporation
33 S. 6th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Click here to download a PDF of this case study.

Film Plastic “Closed Loop” Recycling Case Study - University of Colorado, Petoskey Plastics and Grainger Supply

PROGRAM MANAGER: University of Colorado – Boulder Zero Waste Lab



PARTNERS: Recycler: Petoskey Plastics, headquartered in Petoskey Michigan with recycling/remanufacturing in Hartford City, Indiana. Supplier of recycled Petoskey trash bags: Grainger Supply, CU’s preferred distributor

POPULATION SERVED: The entire campus and student population benefits from recovering material generated in University stockrooms, maintenance areas, and bookstores, and then purchasing trash bags made with PCR sourced from bag/film material.

MATERIALS ACCEPTED: Flexible film packaging from campus purchasing of goods.


1. Collection - CU collects and bales used plastic film at its Distribution Center and ships it to Petoskey’s advanced facility in Hartford City, IN.
2. Reprocessing - Postconsumer plastic is manufactured by Petoskey into GreenPe® Resin that is then used to make Greencore brand blown film and bag products. This recycled resin is sandwiched between outer layers of virgin resin.
3. Sustainable Purchasing - The operating partnership between Grainger and Petoskey allows CU to purchase considerable amounts of finished, recycled product as Greencore bags. 


1. Collection/Recovery Points - CU targets stock rooms, maintenance areas, and bookstores as the predominant sources of clean dry film.
2. Types of Storage Containers - CU employees use mail-carts in stock rooms and bookstores. Maintenance operations personnel use large appliance boxes, all signed appropriately for indoor storage.
3. Material Handling and Transport  - CU’s Distribution Center staff collect the material and backhaul to the DC as part of routine deliveries in 18’ box trucks. Locations are collected as needed- 1-2 times/month.
4. Quality Control - Clean, dry material free from contaminants is maintained with bin signage, website procedures, periodic announcements, and most importantly, DC staff collecting carts or feeding the baler.

5.  Densification - The University DC utilizes a compact footprint Orwalk Baler to compact the collected film. Petoskey also offers various baler purchase options, including a credit plan based on production.

4. Shipping - Material is picked up FOB-Boulder. Petoskey arranges and pays for ground transport from CU’s DC to the Indiana facility. CU must have a minimum of six pallets staged for shipment. A shrink wrapped standard pallet holds four bales, each weighing about 150 lbs for a pallet weight of approximately 600 lbs and for at least 3,000 pounds per shipment.


Greencore bags containing GreenPE resin are the default for most large campus users, including custodial, food service, and special events. The Bag LadyUniversity purchases bags primarily from Grainger Supply through CU’s Procurement Services department’s portal, “Marketplace”. In 2016, over 3,000 cases of bags in a variety of sizes and specifications were purchased via Marketplace to meet the ongoing needs of campus Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO)
Custom bags in university colors are used for tailgater beverage container recovery at CU athletic events. These are purchased through Grainger and stocked by the University Athletic Department. See photo for an example tailgater bag. In 2016, 200 cases of these bags were used.

BENEFITS OF THE CLOSED LOOP PROGRAM:  Greencore bags cost less, perform better, and are better for the environment.

  • Reducing LDPE contamination of other recycling streams. Other campus recyclables are collected single stream and processed by the Boulder County MRF, operated by Eco-Cycle, Inc. LDPE film can interfere with the MRF processing equipment.
  • Collaborating with a proven American company to “close the loop” via University procurement of finished goods. Petoskey creates demand by sourcing UC generated material, while providing the added benefits of shipping and a modest revenue stream.
  • Creating effective awareness and a compelling narriative to build participation by linking campus recycling to a high-performance everyday product that incorporates recycled material.
  • The “closed-loop” message is reinforced as Petoskey’s custom imprinted bags are used regularly on campus. 

CU has purchased Greencore bags almost exclusively. Over 3,000 cases, or 70,000 pounds off PCC has displaced virgin resource inputs, which to CU, is the definition of successful recycling. Petoskey Plastics provides a sustainability report to the University summarizing the positive environmental benefits of the closed loop program. In 2015 for instance, PCC saved more than 418,000 gallons of water and 2,950 gallons of gas. 

Price - The price for Greencore bags is lower than virgin resin bags due to preferred pricing by Petoskey to Grainger. The savings are passed along to CU.
Quality - Greencore bags are high-performing under the demanding conditions of the university’s various uses. Performance metrics such as thickness, mil strength for bursting and retention are comparable to competitors’ products that do not contain recycled resin.
Availability - The Greencore bags are readily available through common procurement sources and methods on campus.
Innovative Partnership - As in any industry, developing strong and long-lasting vendor relationships is key. Petoskey, Grainger and CU are committed to an ongoing collaboration in the Closed Loop program.

Work is underway by Petoskey on a Greencore bag that performs better, at lower cost, with custom imprinting. Grainger has been instrumental in working with University MRO to deliver a product meeting their service expectations in an environment of significant competition.

CU’s Zero Waste Lab is advancing the project through its network of campus and industry leaders.


Jack DeBell
University of Colorado
National Recycling Coalition Campus Council
303.492.8733- office
303.817.3447 - mobile

Click here to download a PDF of this case study.

Film Plastic Recycling Case Study - Emmet County, MI

**Emmet County is one of the few communities successfully integrating a bag-in-bag program into their curbside collection and processing. While APR recognizes their success, we caution communities that certain conditions must be met before they consider implementing a bag in bag curbside program.

MATERIALS RECOVERY FACILITY: Emmet County Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)


LOCATION: Emmet County, Michigan

OPERATOR: Owned and Operated by Emmet County

HOUSEHOLDS SERVED: Approximately 95,000 households in 4 counties

MATERIALS ACCEPTED: “Day-to-day” materials are typically collected in two groups:

Mixed Containers:
• Plastic bottles jugs and jars (leave caps on) MRF
• Plastic tubs, trays and cups
• Cartons and paper cups
• Metal cans, foil and trays
• Glass bottles and jars

Paper, Boxes and Bags:
• Newspapers and inserts
• Magazines, catalogs and books
• Office and writing paper
• Cardboard, cereal boxes, and paper grocery bags
• Plastic grocery and bread bags


• Emmet County provides weekly residential dual-stream curbside collection using its own trucks.

• Bagged plastic bags and other acceptable film packages are placed in 64-gallon carts with Paper and Cardboard, which keeps the film clean and dry (a critical market specification). Mixed containers are collected in two 18-gallon bins at the curb next to the cart.

• Residents and businesses in a four-county area can also use 34 residential and commercial recycling drop sites where bagged film plastic is accepted in drop site bins labeled Paper, Boxes & Bags. This material is also delivered to Emmet County’s MRF by either private sector haulers or county haulers.


• Emmet County’s MRF switched from source separated to dual stream in 2009. During the time of the switch, the MRF began accepting additional materials including plastic bags/film, #3-7 plastic containers, and plastic caps. Plastic film recycling was formally unveiled to the public in 2010.

• Overhead Vacuum Tubes are installed on the container pre-sort line and the plastic container sort line to capture any bundles of bags/film that are mistakenly placed in the Mixed Container bin by residents, and also to capture bags from manual de-bagging of mixed containers that residents place in bags. The vacuum tubes air-convey the material to the Plastics Film bunker to await baling.

• Emmet County’s recycling program processes approximately 15,000 tons of recycling each year, and shipped over 100 tons of film plastic to market in 2016.

Some plastic film ends up in the Mixed Container stream. A number of residents interpret ‘plastic containers’ to include plastic film bags, and place their bagged bags with Mixed Containers. Some residents bag their other recyclables and put the whole bundle in their bin. Vacuum tubes are installed to capture this material before it travels into the container sorting equipment.
The County’s film education emphasizes that all film plastic gets bagged. The Vacuum Tube capture system is most efficient when residents bundle all their bags and wraps into one bag, minimizing the sorters’ repetitive motion of grabbing individual bags. Sorters might miss loose bags or film which would then go to the paper line and contaminate the fiber grades.
The light weight of plastic film material makes processing cost high relative to market value of the material.

Emmet County has been successful in including the acceptance of film plastic and plastic bags for two main reasons. The first is the decision to remain a dual stream system, and designate bagged plastic bags and film to the Paper, Boxes & Bags stream. Including it with the paper keeps the film clean and dry (a critical market specification), and also keeps plastic bags from tangling with the sorting equipment used for container processing.

The second reason Emmet County’s film recycling program works well is because the County owns and operates the MRF, the curbside collection trucks (both residential and commercial), and most of the drop-site collection trucks. Emmet County can monitor specific contamination issues and address them since the County controls the material from collection to marketing. Curbside drivers perform quality control checks and leave ‘Oops!’ tags to target contamination or improper preparation of materials.


No amount of education and outreach is too much!Bag in Bag

Our shorthand for the film plastics accepted is “plastic grocery and bread bags,” but case wrap, food storage bags, plastic mail-order envelopes, Tyvek envelopes, air pillows and bubblewrap are also accepted at curbside and via our day-to-day recyclables drop sites. Our line on this subject is plastic bags are acceptable if they are “stretchy, clean and dry.” To prevent escaped bags and improve sorting efficiency we stress, “please bag your bags.”

Excerpt from Emmet County Recycling Guide:

Emmett Recycling Guide

Film in Bunker             Stack of Film Bales Emmett


Elisa Seltzer
Emmet County Dept. Public Works
231 348-0640

Click here to download a PDF of this case study.