With recent changes in recyclable policy by overseas companies, plastic bags (and plastic film) are no longer recyclable. It’s not that they necessarily can’t be recycled or won’t be recycled in the future, but current processing systems are inadequate to properly process plastic bags.
This doesn’t just include the take-away bags from your local grocer. Even the plastic garbage bags used to line bins are not recyclable – so be sure to leave your recyclables loose in your recycling bin, or else the entire container could become contaminated and unable to be recycled.
You may be thinking, “Why doesn’t the facility just open the bag and take out the recyclables?” While it’s true that most collection facilities sort materials by hand, and pulling open a plastic bag should be no problem, the facility must also consider the health and safety of its employees. Your plastic bag could be full of clean recyclables, or it could be full of a number of other things, from food scraps to biohazardous waste. There’s no safe, quick way to tell – so into the landfill it goes.
Even a clear bag presents certain problems. Many facilities use a system of conveyor belts and magnets to separate metal and plastic. If your recyclables are in a bag, then the materials inside aren’t being sorted efficiently. If the bag isn’t caught and disposed of, it could even cause a jam in the sorting equipment, which at best wastes time, and at worst can cause a fire and endanger workers.
So be sure to keep your recyclables out of plastic bags, and keep plastic bags and film out of your recycling bin – this will ensure a safe and efficient collections process and keep the most recyclable materials out of landfills.
Ideally, plastic bags from grocery and department stores can be cleaned and reused repeatedly, eliminating these items from being disposed of in the nearby landfill. The recycling industry thoughout the United States is working on future market opportunities for recycling plastic bags, but until that goal is reached, it is suggested that the public limit the number of plastic bags utilized.