Are the plastic bags with zippers that bedsheets come in recyclable along with other plastic bags?
Mary L., Allentown, PA
The zipped plastic bags that protect new comforters, sheets, and other bedding are made from a durable, flexible version of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), also known as vinyl or #3 plastic. One of the most widely used plastics, the practical benefits of PVC come with some controversy as it isn’t easy to recycle and can release toxic chemicals when heated.
Bedding bags have similar properties to plastic film, but they shouldn't be added to the plastic film recycling drop-boxes that are commonly found in grocery stores. That's because those boxes accept #2 and #4 plastic films, but they don't accept any kind of #3 plastic. Keep recycling your plastic grocery bags, but leave the bedding bags out of it!
So if they can't be recycled with other plastic bags, what are your other options? PVC is accepted by some but not many curbside recycling programs. To make things even more challenging, even if your hauler accepts #3, only certain forms are accepted. Allentown, Pennsylvania, accepts all #1-#7 plastic “bottles and tubs” for example, but that doesn't seem to include flexible #3 vinyl packaging. So even if your town accepts plastic #3 for curbside pickup, check with your local hauler first since certain forms of PVC might not be recyclable.
Of course, reusing the bags would be even better than recycling them (which requires energy) or trashing them (which could release toxic chemicals if they get incinerated). They're super functional and durable, offering easy, accessible storage for backup bedding, off-season clothing like sweaters, or sewing, craft, and medical supplies. They also make excellent travel bags for toiletries and shoes, keeping your things neatly organized and protected from dirt and spills.