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Because You Asked

What Kind of Plastic Bags Can I Recycle?
5

By Recyclebank |

You can recycle plastic grocery bags by taking them back to the store, but those aren’t the only plastic bags you can recycle.


Dear Recyclebank,

I’ve checked back from time to time on your site about what to do with plastic bags — bread bags, frozen veggie bags, Ziploc bags, etc. Grocery stores will take clean plastic grocery bags back for reprocessing, but so far I don’t know about the other bags. It’s hard to avoid accumulating these bags since so much comes pre-packaged in them. Any ideas?

-Sue L., Orchard Park, NY

 

Dear Sue,

Plastic bag recycling (also known as plastic film recycling) can get tricky if you don't know what kind of plastic the bag is made of. Those plastic bag recycling drop-off boxes at grocery stores accept polyethylene film, which includes high-density polyethylene (also known as HDPE or #2 plastic) and low-density polyethylene (also known as #4 plastic or LDPE). Most bags that are marked as #2 HDPE or #4 LDPE can be placed in the drop-off box, along with your regular plastic grocery bags. However, a lot of perfectly acceptable bags aren’t marked with what kind of plastic they are — bread bags and Ziploc bags, for example.

You can actually put bread bags and Ziploc bags with your plastic grocery bags when you take them back to the grocery store for recycling. Just make sure they are dry and clean, completely free of food residue. But it’s true, frozen veggie bags are not accepted. That’s because the plastic in these bags typically contain additives or layers of other materials to protect the food. The additives or layers are contaminants in the plastic film recycling process and can ruin a whole batch of recycled material, so make sure to keep them out of the drop-off box.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any other options for recycling frozen food bags. It is indeed hard to avoid them, but avoiding them is currently the best way to reduce unrecyclable plastic waste. It negates the convenience of prepared frozen foods, but you could freeze fresh vegetables, fruits, and meals in food storage bags. Food storage bags, after they are washed and dried, can be recycled.

And remember, we are talking about recycling plastic bags by dropping them off at receptacles found in grocery stores and other retail locations. Plastic bags should never go in your home recycling bin. It’s extremely rare for curbside pick-up recycling programs to accept plastic bags in the recycling bin, so play it safe and take them to a drop-off location. Use Plasticfilmrecycling.org’s drop-off locator to find one near you.

SOURCES
Plasticfilmrecycling.org

 

Do you recycle plastic film whenever you can? Tell us if you do, or if you have any tips for avoiding it in the first place!

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  • Gina L. 11 hours ago
    A quick question. Do I need to pop the bubbles in bubble wrap before I stuff them in the correct bin?
    • Duane W. 9 hours ago
      No, the photos on the bin at my supermarket show it as "full bubbles." That's the way I have dropped it off, too.
  • Duane W. 14 days ago
    Great information in this post and great to read the comments, as well! Some recycling bins at supermarkets even encourage bubble wrap, as well. I thought the date of this post (15 April 2022) meant Recyclebank was active, but I see some of the comments are 7 years old. Has this website gone to a "bot-driven" function?
  • jorge m. 18 days ago
    A couple years ago we replaced all 3 toilets in the house with low water flush toilets. It is so hard to believe such a small change has netted us so large a saving in water costs.
  • Barbara W. 19 days ago
    4-25-2022
  • Marc R. 27 days ago
    I've only seen one frozen food bag that is recyclable, Quorn Meatless Pieces, which comes in a #4 LDPE plastic bag. Everything else is either unmarked, marked as not recyclable, or marked #7 Other.
    • randy r. 25 days ago
      Good Catch !
      I'll have to keep that brand in mind. I was kinda heartbroken to find frozen food in cardboard boxes were waxed, and therefore unrecyclable.
    • Duane W. 9 hours ago
      I have seen some that are recyclable. I live on the West Coast, and the in-house Safeway Organic brand has some frozen food bags that are marked recyclable #4.
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