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Posted on: November 6, 2019

Keep plastic bags AWAY from your recycling cart!

The chasing arrow symbol simply tells the kind of plastic that material is made of. Sometimes plastic items labeled with a chasing arrows symbol can go in your curbside bin or single stream drop off program, and sometimes they can not. In this case, plastic bags and plastic product wrap should not be recycled in your curbside recycling cart as no recycling sorting center is able to process them. Instead, these plastic bags and plastic product wrap end up causing more harm than good.

Plastic bags are the WORST contaminant in the recycling bin, in other words the most common and most problematic material found today in residential curbside recycling carts SHOULD NOT be in there in the first place.


Do not put any kind of plastic bags in your curbside recycling cart at all - full or empty! 

Do not put your recyclables in plastic bags; place recycling in the recycling cart loose.  Collect your recyclables in your home using paper bags or a box and then tip the material out of the bag or box directly into the cart and toss the paper bag or box in after that. Otherwise, if you do use a plastic bag to collect recyclables in your house, please empty the recyclables out of the plastic bag into the cart loose and then reuse the plastic bag or place it in the trash.

Additionally, do not put bags full of other plastic bags into your recycling cart thinking they will get recycled; they get mixed up with paper and other materials and will not be recycled. Also, bags full of bags can burst open at the sorting center and instead of one bag to sort out, now there are dozens.

Plastic bags damage equipment.

Plastic bags cause a lot of damage to the recycling center sorting equipment. You may think that a flimsy bag that sometimes rips so easily with your groceries in it can’t possibly do any damage right? Well, as the picture above on the left shows, plastic bags and plastic wrap get tangled in the sorting center equipment. Once they wrap around the spinning shafts of the sorting machines, they become wound tighter and tighter. They rub against other machinery causing a lot of wear, eventually breaking parts of the machinery, causing costly unnecessary repairs.

 Bags are recyclable, just not in your curbside cart.

Now, you may be saying, “Hey wait, I have seen collection bins at the grocery store for plastic bags and plastic wrap.” This is true. Polyethylene plastic bags with the plastic code #2 or #4 can be recycled at participating grocery stores and other retailers if they are dropped off to them clean, dry and empty. If you want to learn more about where you can drop off plastic bags and product wrap near you, please visit the www.plasticfilmrecycling.org web site.  For more information about recycling the right way in your community, visit your community page on the www.swalco.org web site or call SWALCO at (847) 377-4950.  

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