Plastic film is everywhere. How can something so thin and nearly invisible create such a nightmare in our recycling systems?
Until recently, most local recycling programs collected plastic bags and other film plastics for recycling if it was clean, dry, bagged up and tied together. However with recent changes in the global recycling market, our local curbside recycling programs can no longer manage this material.
Primarily the problem is not having a resale market for the material, but another issue is the frequent improper recycling of these items. When thrown loose into a curbside recycling cart, they can infiltrate and contaminate other recyclable products, or get caught in recycling machinery causing mechanical jams and production slowdowns at the processing facility.
That doesn’t mean you can’t recycle them, it just means you can’t recycle them in your mixed recycling cart. Many stores will take them back, so you can bag up your clean and dry bread bags, tortilla bags, dry cleaning bags, and other film plastic to take back to the store on your next visit. To find a store that accepts them near you, visit Earth911.com. Whether you drop off film plastic at take-back location or place in your garbage can, knot it before you toss it to prevent airborne litter.
Film plastics are recycled into composite lumber and other products. Recycling film plastics prevents them loading up landfills, floating away and becoming litter, and poisoning our oceans and wildlife as they breakdown into microplastics. Even better than recycling them: avoid them altogether. Opt for products that aren’t bagged, bring your own reusable bags, and try alternatives to the single-use disposable plastic bag like reusable containers and waxed cloth wraps. Some reusable resources can be found at bayarearecycling.org.
If you have questions about what you can and cannot recycle, check your curbside recycling guide, or contact us for help.