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18 Types of Plastic Packaging and Their Recyclability, AKA Your Soft Plastics Recycling Guide

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After your kids (or you!) enjoy popping sheets of bubble wrap, stick them with your grocery bags and other soft plastics to bring to drop off bins.


Currently the back of my car contains three pillow-sized sacks of plastic bags and packaging, just waiting for me to swing by my local supermarket so that I can drop them off in a soft-plastics recycling collection bin.

If you’re pretty conscientious about recycling, like me, you probably already know that plastic bags and other soft plastics should not go into most curbside recycling bins. Instead, these materials can be dropped off in collection bins, usually found at supermarkets, hardware stores, recycling centers, and other locations (search for a location near you on PlasticFilmRecycling.org).

I’m always wondering, though, what can and cannot go in those drop-off bins. What about the thin, pliable bags my bread comes in? The saran wrap left in my kids’ lunch box? It looks like Recyclebank readers have the same sorts of questions — we get a lot of reader mail asking for recycling advice on various food packages and other flexible plastic. I’ve done the research for you, so now you can refer to this post to clear up as much confusion as possible about the various types of plastic you encounter, and whether they can be recycled.

A quick note about recycling soft plastics: The most important thing is to make sure it is clean (that means no food residue), dry, and empty. Even a single paper receipt inside a grocery bag will slow down the process or contaminate the plastic.

 

Without further ado, here’s your guide to what’s recyclable in your nearest soft-plastics drop-off bin:


YES

1. Dry Cleaning Bags

2. Produce Bags

3. Grocery and Retail Bags

4. Plastic Wrappers (like those from toilet paper, diapers, paper towels)

5. Cereal Box Liners

Note: If it tears like paper, it’s not recyclable.

6. Bubble Wrap and Air Pillows

Note: Pop the bubbles and pouches first.

7. Plastic Shipping Envelopes

8. Zip-Top Bags and Sandwich Bags

9. Bread Bags

10. Newspaper Bags

 


NO

1. Food Wrap (cling wrap)

2. Cellophane (like from flowers or gift baskets)

3. Frozen Food Bags

4. Pretzel and Potato Chip Bags

Note: Although some manufacturers are taking strides to minimize packaging and reduce landfill-bound waste, and Terracycle has a program to collect snack bags and turn them into 3D printer filament.

5. Biodegradable Produce Bags (often recognizable by their greenish tint)

Note: These bags are better suited for compost collection.

6. Salad and Greens Bags, Food Packages

 

 

7. Candy Bar Wrappers

8. Zipper Bedding Packaging

Note: They might be accepted by your curbside program — check with your hauler.

 

Do you recycle your plastic packaging? Share your efforts in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • John D. 10 months ago
    Recyclebank: This subject needs to be revisited. Many store drop-off bins only take numbered material. Now back 'then' there was a site ya'll told us about that one could find out which stores could take non-numbered material, but more recently when I tried that site the result was just 'check with the store' [which is mostly useless when you consider the difficulty of getting an answer from store personnel].
  • Cindy W. 10 months ago
    You can use those zippered bags from bedsheets to store seasonal clothes Also can be used for storing toys or anything you want to keep clean.
  • Rebecca G. 10 months ago
    Can I recycle did food bags?
  • tommy b. 10 months ago
    today
  • Eden W. 10 months ago
    Where are my points
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