Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Recycling plastic bags -- cutting through the confusion

While we all have to admit that recycling is important, we also have to admit that it can be downright confusing. That's why I rely on Earth911.com whenever I have questions.

Drop it in the recycling bin, Fido!

When it comes to plastic bags and wraps, here's the lowdown on what you can and cannot recycle:


  • Bags marked #2 or #4. But make sure they are clean and dry.
  • Produce bags 
  • Dry cleaning bags (that one was a surprise to me)
  • Bread bags
  • The plastic packaging wrap around bulk foods and beverages
  • The plastic packaging wrap around disposable products like napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, and diapers
  • Newspaper bags
  • And, of course, bags from grocery stores and retailers
For me, most of the above is a moot point since we don't use plastic produce bags, retail bags, paper towels, paper napkins, or disposable diapers. But I did not realize I could recycle the wrapping around toilet paper. I feel horrible about all the times I've thrown it in the trash.

  • Plastic cling wrap (aluminum foil is recyclable, so it's often a preferable choice to plastic)
  • Prepackaged food bags used for frozen foods and pre-washed salads and veggies
  • Any plastic that has been painted or has a lot of gluey, sticky residue
Here's another area where I've been wrong. I've been tossing my frozen veggie bags into the recycling bin. Oops. Let's face it: it's confusing and there's always something new to learn. But don't give up! As I often say, every drop in the bucket counts. That means every recycled piece of plastic that stays out of the landfill counts, too. Let's do this, folks. Let's make a difference!


  1. Hi! There is some added confusion and frustration because many local areas have their own rules. For instance, where I live we are given a list of what we can and cannot put into the recycle bin. They don't want any plastic bags in there at all, and only certain numbers for the plastics. Glass, but no lids, etc. Newspapers but no magazines.

    Some areas need to separate their recycling into groups. We do not, so it all goes into one bin.

    Anyway, my point is that you have to make sure you're conforming to whatever your local recycling rules are, in addition to these general rules above. Ugh!

    1. You're absolutely right. There are still some communities, like my daughter's in Washington, PA, that don't have recycling at all. It's ridiculous.


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