Let’s talk polyethylene, or plastic bags. They’re stretchable plastic bags, or film, that are #2 or #4 plastics. Amazingly, most people don’t recycle them, but you can. These things just never go away, so doing your best to not acquire them in the first place is a tall order, but well worth it. And then, reusing them as much as you can until you have to recycle them is your best course of action.
Most supermarkets have a recycle bin where you can take your polyethylene or plastic bags. The most common polyethylene bags are plastic bags that you get at the grocery store, but there are many more items that you might otherwise throw away that can be recycled in polyethylene recycling. Let’s review them in a simple list, below.
When you take your bags to get recycled, simply stuff the rest of the polyethylene from your life into that bag to get recycled, too. But please remember: Recycling plastic bags is not a closed-loop system. Best to think about ways to avoid it altogether.
Ok, Here’s the List of Plastic Bags/Film That Can Go In Your Plastic Bag Recycling Bin
Grocery Bags: On our island, we’re lucky these things have been banned. So, they’re few and far between.
Bread Bags: Some bread comes in polyethylene. Be sure to recycle them when you’re done reusing them. And if you want to reduce this plastic altogether, try my fail-proof bread recipe. It’s a staple in our home.
Air Bags for Shipping and Bubblewrap: Definitely reuse these, or offer them up on your local Buy Nothing group. People and businesses who ship items often are always happy to take them off your hands.
Ziploc Bags: If you use resealable bags that have those zipperlike locks on them, just rip that hard block off of your bag and recycle the bag. I’m proud to say I haven’t bought resealable bags in years because I clean, dry, and reuse what I have.
Garment Bags: Man, that’s a lot of polyethylene. Maybe your dry cleaner will take them back if you keep them clean.
Mail Order Clothing Bags: My husband works for a clothing company and we get samples from them every week. They all come in polyethylene bags. Bothers me.
Beverage Shrink Wrap: These are usually clean and can just be thrown right into recycling. This excessive packaging is disturbing.
Newspaper Bags: Digital subscriptions are looking a lot more eco-friendly these days.
Magazine Covers: Be sure to remove the paper address label and recycle that paper label, or throw it in your compost.
Frozen Food Bags: It’s super important that you wash and dry these bags so there’s no food residue inside.
Cereal Box Liners: According to this website, you can recycle them.
Toilet Paper Roll Packaging: This is the one we can’t seem to avoid. I don’t like buying individually-paper-wrapped toilet paper rolls.
Paper Towel Packaging: Or, just skip them altogether.
Individual Kleenex Tissue Wrap: I found this in the woods on a hike. Using a handkerchief can go a long way toward reducing these kinds of plastics.
Produce Bags: I reuse mine, taking them back to the store, and no one seems to care.
Plastic Shipping Envelopes: Just remove the sticky label. We reuse these, too.
Trash Bags: These have to be clean and dry.
Wood Chip Plastic Baling: We used to use wood chips as bedding for our chickens (but now we use shredded paper.) This stuff is polyethylene! If you make sure it’s clean and dry, it can be recycled.
Little Hardware Bags For Nuts, Bolts, Screws, Etc: These little bags are what the hardware store provides for you when you buy bits of hardware in bulk.
Furniture Wrap: This is film, and it should be recycled.
What can’t be recycled? My rule of thumb is, if you can stretch your thumb through it, it’s polyethylene. But don’t include Saran Wrap/cling wrap. Apparently, that’s a different plastic (until recently, it was PVC.) If your plastic item crinkles, it’s not recyclable and you’ll have to throw it away. The risk of putting the wrong plastic into your recycling is that the recycler will reject the entire recycling container-full of bags. So, be sure you’re sending the right stuff to get recycled.
I’m a big believer in every office and classroom having a polyethylene bag recycling area, so long as a volunteer will take it to the supermarket for recycling every week or so. Imagine the impact you could have by doing this? It would reduce the waste-to-landfill by a lot, and save the school and office a bundle in solid waste pickup fees.
What can you add to my list?