Return Wrappers & Bags

Ah, the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag. We can — and should — avoid them and refuse them as much as possible…but somehow, the little buggers end up in our homes and/or neighborhoods.

If you’re looking for an easy change you can make in your everyday life, one of the simplest but most important is (1) refusing and (2) recycling plastic bags and other plastic film products.

Most of us know to return bags to a grocery store or other retailer. They can be made into recycled plastic products such as Trex decking materials or “new” packaging materials. (And if you didn’t know, here are links to tell you about where you can return them in the U.S. and Canada).

I mean, yeah. Let’s be real. The best thing to do is avoid/refuse plastic bags by taking and using our own reusable bags each time we feel we might need to carry something more than we can put into a pocket or a purse. The second best thing to do is to use a repurposed paper bag or cardboard box. When neither of those things is possible, and a plastic bag ends up in our possession (or when we clean up other people’s plastic bags), they need to go back to a location that takes them for recycling.

Whatever you do, DO NOT PUT THEM IN YOUR CURBSIDE RECYCLING BIN. Plastic bags have become a major recycling stream contaminant. They can cause entire truckloads of otherwise feasible recycling to wind up in the landfill instead, because it’s just too labor intensive (read: expensive) to pick them all out. (Also, don’t put your household recycling inside a plastic grocery or trash bag when you put it out curbside or drop it off at a recycling bin…for the same reasons).

a pile of plastic grocery bags
[photo | LRS]
What about other cellophane packaging and product wrapping?

Answer: A LOT of those items should be returned to the same place as your plastic bags, rather than put into the trash. Chances are good that most plastic film materials can be recycled into other products if they are returned to the plastic bag bin at the store in clean, dry condition.

Yup. Plastic film recycling programs tend to take all sorts of cellophane and plastic-based films. Most recycling programs, as evidenced by the poster below, will take:

newspaper sleeves
product wrap
cereal box liners
food storage bags
ice bags
pellet bags/salt bags
produce bags
dry cleaning bags
case overwrap
packaging air pillows

Plastic Film Recycling Poster

Want Even More Helpful Info?

There’s an excellent post at How2Recyle that goes into a bit more detail about Five Things You May Not Know About Plastic Film Recycling.

We should not think that just because such recycling programs exist, it’s OK to consume plastic film products and packaging willy-nilly. It’s far better to refuse/avoid bringing these products into our home in the first place. But when some of them do inevitably make their way in, it’s good to know they don’t need to go back out into the landfill.

We can make a commitment to this one small, easy change in our day to day lives — separate, save up, and return plastic film to be recycled.

Be sure to visit our other EASY CHANGES posts.

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