Q: Can I recycle plastic bags?
A: This is a question we get asked very often. From the bags you get with your shopping to the plastic bags, wrap and film that encase many of the items you buy. It is a huge problem that many cities are trying to address with regulations.
The good news is that plastic bags and film are recyclable. The unfortunate news is that they are NOT recyclable everywhere.
In many other parts of the country, plastic bags CANNOT be placed in recycling bins because the loose bags tend to get caught in sorting machines at recycling facilities, jamming and damaging the equipment.
San Francisco is one exception. The city has made it possible to easily recycle plastic bags and other clean, dry film and flimsy plastic such as plastic wrap. See how it is being done at the W hotel in San Francisco.
So what can you do?
- RECYCLE ELSEWHERE – Bring your plastic bags to collection bins located at most grocery chains and drugstores. At www.plasticfilmrecycling.org, you can find a drop off location for plastic bags and film in your area.
- REUSE – Besides recycling, you can and should reuse those plastic bags. (See this great story about how a group of women are converting plastic bags into water-resistant mats for the homeless!)
- REFUSE – What’s best is to refuse single-use plastic bags in the first place. Bring a reusable bag instead.
Today, plastic pollution is a real threat. Millions of animals die because they ingest plastic bags or become ensnared in plastic packaging and other plastic items. The ocean is filled with trillions of microplastics that end up in seafood that we consume. One study found that 94% of drinking water samples in the U.S. revealed the presence of plastic fibers! See this analysis of the impact of single-use plastic bags to learn more.
So the next time someone hands you a plastic bag, let’s REFUSE it.