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Monday, June 2, 2014

Plastic Bags: What to do with them?

Plastic bags should not be placed in your regular recycling carts for curb collection. They are not on the list of items that are accepted and will be pulled out and thrown in the trash when it comes to separation time at the designated Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where items are sorted and residuals are removed.

In fact, plastic bags are considered "the bane of many single-stream MRFs [...] – they can jam the machinery and slow down the processing," states Anne Germain in her article Where Does It Go? about the story of modern single-streaming recycling.

Others also do not see plastic bags in a positive light. As reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures, "States are continuing to consider strategies to reduce the number of plastic carry-out bags from grocery stores and other retail outlets. [...] Regulating bags can mitigate harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes and the wildlife that inhabit them. Reducing bag use can also relieve pressure on landfills and waste management." In various places in the US the use of plastic bags has been banned.

Locally, we see shops selling reusable bags and organizations distributing them. To encourage their use, a few modest incentives are in place, like Target's: shoppers who bring their own reusable bags get a 5-cent discount off the total of purchase per reusable bag.

So, for the ones who still have plastic bags abound, what can they do with their plastic bags?

One can find many uses for plastic bags besides holding cat litter or not composted meat scraps that will go straight in the garbage and be landfilled.

There are plenty of different crafts (also here and some more here) and toys (like this fabulous jump rope) that can be made using plastic bags. A favorite among kids is the toy parachute that can be as simple as this one or as elaborate as this other one.

If disposing of plastic bags is what you are looking for, you may donate your clean plastic bags to local libraries and farmer's markets or shops to be reused -- contact them first to check whether they are in need and accepting plastic bags.

Another alternative for disposal of those bags is to recycle them through specific drop-off programs available in local stores.

In the post What to do with What you Cannot Place in your Recycle Bin we mentioned that Publix accepted some things that could not normally be recycled, including grocery and shopping "plastic bags, clean ziploc bags, [...], plastic sleeves from dry cleaning and newspapers." That list can be expanded.

Even though "less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled each year" according to Clean Air Council. (2009, May), more stores are serving as drop-off locations.

Besides Publix, stores like Target, Walmart, Sam's Club, and Lowe's have collection bins for plastic bags. A list of stores that accept plastic bags is available on the Find a Drop Off Location page of the Plastic Film Recycling website .

Each drop-off location may accept different types of bags. Accepted items may include retail bags, newspaper bags, produce bags, case wraps (e.g. snacks and beverage cases), bread bags, napkin/paper towel/bathroom tissue/diaper wrap, dry cleaning, and air pillows.

Before you take your bags to a store near you, make sure you know what can go in the bin of your selected store and...

Recycle Brevard!

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