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  • Writer's pictureAnne Marie Hunter

Plastic Trail of Recycled Bags and Plastic Film

Conscientious residents are recycling their plastic bags at their local grocery stores. You may have asked yourself what plastic do they accept in the recycling bin? What precautions must you take to ensure the plastic is usable? Is the plastic recycled, or is the recycling effort a ploy to make us feel good?

What Can Be Recycled

We talked with our local ShopRite and Stop & Shop grocery stores to obtain answers to these questions. We were happy to find out that more than just the store's shopping bags are accepted.

You can return many types of bags: any retailer's shopping bags, produce bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper or bread bags, sandwich or zip lock bags, frozen food bags/pouches, dairy cheese bags and wraps, trash-can liners, plastic shipping envelopes, and cereal box liners. You can recycle plastic wraps used as packaging to cover paper products like napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper. The wraps used to hold multiple items together, i.e., beverage bottles and six-pack rings for soda are accepted, even bubble wrap. Also, recyclable is film/cling wrap used to protect packaged meats, fruits, vegetables, and prepackaged deli cold cuts and cheeses.

Tip: If the plastic is soft, flexible and you can squeeze it up in the palm of your hand, you may recycle it at the store.

Recycling Precautions

Proper care must be taken!

All bags/wraps/films must be rinsed, dry, and free of any food residue that may contaminate the load. If the load is spoiled, all items in that batch will be sent to a landfill. We don't want that to happen!

You should never recycle these items in curbside recycling bins as soft plastic requires a different type of recycling than plastic bottles and containers. Their soft plastic characteristics will jam the sorting machines used for hard plastic items.

Does It Get Recycled

Yes, it does. Here is the process.

The store compresses the bags, plastic wrap/film and sends them by store truck to their

recycling center. They are bundled and sold to companies that specialize in plastic recycling. The recycling company sorts the plastic, shreds it, rids it of impurities, and melts it down into plastic pellets.

Products such as new plastic bags, plastic film, synthetic lumber, shipping envelopes, furniture, landscaping boards, garbage can liners, and floor tiles are made from plastic pellets.

Improvements in Recycling Information

Can this be recycled is a common question. Many plastic packages do not contain the recycling symbol, and soft plastic parts of packaging have no recycle symbol at all. The good news is help is on the way!

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and the environmental nonprofit are working to bring together a diversity of stakeholders to encourage innovation and best practices to promote the creation of a more sustainable materials economy.

One result of this effort is an improved recycling label called How2Recycle,

developed to inform customers how to dispose of all product packaging parts and their components properly. You can already find the new symbol on grocery store bags, store-branded items, and some products from companies that are members of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Reading the label from top to bottom presents the following information clearly: what preparation you need to perform before recycling the item; how to recycle it, what is the material type, located in what portion of the package. A single package may contain three or more How2Recycle labels, one for each component of the packaging, i.e., box, top, tray.

Refuse Reduce Reuse Recycle


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