Plastic Bag Recycling
Why You Can’t Put Them In Your Blue Bin
CSWD does not manufacture new products from recyclables. We aggregate, sort, bale and ship materials to manufacturers where they are transformed into new materials that will be sold again and made into new products. The more demand there is for these materials, the better the chance we can accept any given item for recycling. (We’re working on a page that explains this in more detail. Stay tuned!)
Plastic bags belong to a material group known as “film,” and recycling film is difficult and complicated.
Currently, there are no manufacturers in Vermont that use used plastic film as a feedstock, so any film that is collected has to be shipped to another state or a Canadian province. Plus, our Materials Recovery Facility (where recycling is sorted) is not set up to accept plastic bags. In fact, any empty plastic bags you recycle in your blue bin will get clogged up in the machinary that separates all the recyclables. **Please Note: Shredded paper is accepted in clear plastic bags because it is the first thing pulled off the recycling line. The shredded paper is emptied into a large bunker and the plastic bags are thrown into the trash.
It’s About The Markets
Also, plastic bags and plastic film wrap vary widely in the kind of plastic they are made from, the colors they come in, and all the non-film stuff that is stuck on them.
Plastic films are often contaminated by dirt, moisture, food, printing, stickers, receipts, etc. Buyers don’t like all this variation and “contamination,” and will refuse to buy material that doesn’t match their exact specifications. On top of that, it takes a LOT of one type of film to make one bale (approximately 1,100 pounds). Buyers typically are not interested in purchasing less than several dozen bales at a time. Some local businesses do generate enough clean film waste of one type to directly market their material.
What We’re Doing; What You Can Do
We have been monitoring the plastic film markets since 1992 and reviewing the logistics of collecting and aggregating film. We are hoping to accept certain film plastics in the near future through an expanded program for construction and demolition debris recycling.
For now, we encourage you to reduce the amount of film you dispose of by using reusable bags and avoiding shrink-wrapped products. You can return your plastic grocery bags, as well as some other plastic film materials, to your grocery store and some other big box stores for recycling. Please see the plastic bags section on our A-Z list for more details.