Recycling Tip for Better Results: Plastic Bags and Plastic Film

Recycling Tip for Better Results: Plastic Bags and Plastic Film

October 17th, 2023

Plastic bags and plastic film have unfortunately become synonymous with our society's reliance on items of convenience and single-serve packaging. It’s sometimes hard to say, “no plastic bag, please,” and even more difficult to avoid the plastic film that comes with some of the items we purchase.

If you do end up with plastic bags or plastic film lying around, know that there are local disposal options – not in your curbside recycling bin though. These items might have recycling symbols on them, but they can’t be recycled properly in the curbside collection systems and can cause major problems at the MRF.

Why can’t I put plastic bags and plastic film into the recycling bin?

Plastic bags and plastic film are not recyclable curbside due in part to their lightweight structure. These items tangle up in the gears of recycling trucks and get wrapped around the sorting equipment at the MRF, causing multiple delays and shutdowns, that can last for hours. They pose major safety concerns for our workers because they physically climb into the machines to cut and remove jammed/clogged bags and film. Put your recyclable items loose into the cart and do not bag them in plastic bags or plastic trash bags.

If plastic bags and film do make it through the sorting line, they often end up in the paper line, contaminating the paper and making it difficult to be further processed. Contamination reduces the quality and value of all recyclables and can make entire batches unsuitable for recycling. RAA only accepts materials we know can be recycled and used to make new products.

If I can’t put it into the recycling bin, where can it go?

Say “no” to using plastic bags altogether. Instead, opt for reusable or paper bags, or even no bags, when purchasing items. If you do end up with plastic bags, try to reuse them multiple times before recycling them. You can recycle them properly at our Drop-Off Station (DOS) located at 2950 E. Ellsworth Road. Plastic bags are recycled and baled separately from other materials at our site, which allows them to be recycled and not contaminate other recyclables brought on-site. Many retail and grocery stores have boxes at the front of their stores to collect plastic bags for recycling.

Acceptance of this material encourages the single use of plastic bags when reusable, sustainable solutions are available. As a zero waste organization, we encourage the reduction and reuse of plastics before recycling.

Read more “Recycling Tip for Better Results: Construction Materials