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Walmart offers drop off recycling hubs at some area stores

The recycled items will be used to make products like playgrounds and park benches.
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SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Walmart is teaming up with an international recycling leader, TerraCycle, to provide a space people can bring their locally unrecyclable waste.
There are currently drop-off recycling hubs stationed outside of the Springdale, Ark., and Broken Arrow, Okla. Walmart Supercenters, as well as at the Fayetteville Sam’s Club.
The list of items that can be dropped off include:
  • Soft Plastic Food Packaging
  • Skincare and beauty products
  • Oral care products
  • Food & Drink Pouches
  • Home & garden supplies packaging
  • Coffee Capsules & Water Filters
  • Plastic bottles
  • Worn Clothing
  • Pet food packaging
  • Plastic Bags & Shipping Materials
  • Plastic toys
  • Ink Cartridges & Office Supplies
When the hub station is full, Walmart says that TerraCycle will pick up the waste and take it to regional material recovery facilities where it will be sorted and recycled into raw materials that can be used to make new products like playgrounds and park benches.
The Walmart Community Recycling Hub is open to all individuals, schools, offices or community organizations. For more information on TerraCycle’s recycling programs, click here.

Earthborn Holistic Celebrates Reaching One Millionth Mark

Through UPCs for Trees and a partnership with Trees for the Future, Earthborn Holistic plants trees in deforested areas around the world. 
(PRESS RELEASE) EVANSVILLE, IN – Earthborn Holistic Pet Food has reached its goal of recycling one million bags by Earth Day 2022 and planting one million trees by Arbor Day 2022. Through UPCs for Trees and a partnership with Trees for the Future, Earthborn Holistic plants trees in deforested areas around the world. Customers collect UPCs from empty bags of Earthborn Holistic products and return them to local participating retailers or mail them in to a designated collection site. In return, trees are planted to create forest gardens and help families out of poverty worldwide. Throughout the month of April, one returned UPC equaled one tree planted. With its TerraCycle partnership, Earthborn Holistic pet food & treat bags are 100% recyclable through the Earthborn ReBorn Program. Consumers drop off empty bags at participating retailers for recycling and upcycling all at company expense. Reaching the 1,000,000 bags recycled milestone is also equal to keeping 103,356 lbs of waste out of the landfill. “We’re thrilled to have hit the one millionth milestone! A big thank you goes out to all of our loyal customers and retailers who participate in both of these programs. We couldn’t have achieved this without you. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that we’re making a difference.” said Brandi Kramer, Midwestern Pet Foods marketing coordinator. “At Midwestern Pet Foods, we love producing nutritious food for pets while simultaneously supporting sustainability.” For more information visit earthbornholisticpetfood.com. About Midwestern Pet Foods Founded in 1926, Midwestern Pet Foods is in its 4TH generation of family leadership. Midwestern Pet Foods creates nutritious dry pet food, biscuits and treats specially crafted in four company-owned US kitchens.

Earthborn Holistic achieves Earth Day goals

EVANSVILLE, IND. — On April 29, Earthborn Holistic Pet Food, a brand owned by Midwestern Pet Foods, announced it has reached its sustainability goals of recycling 1 million bags of pet food and planting 1 million trees. The brand originally announced these goals at the beginning of March. To achieve this milestone, Earthborn Holistic partnered with Trees for the Future and created the UPCs for Trees initiative. Through the program, customers collected and returned UPCs from empty Earthborn pet food bags throughout April. For every UPC collected, Earthborn Holistic planted a tree to create forest gardens. According to Earthborn Holistic, the UPC for Trees program collected 1 million UPCs, equaling 1 million planted trees.
Besides creating the UPCs for Trees initiative, Earthborn Holistic has proved its commitment to sustainability in partnering with TerraCycle. With support from TerraCycle, all Earthborn Holistic’s pet food and treat bags are 100% recyclable through its Earthborn ReBorn Program. As part of the program, consumers can drop off empty pet food and treat bags at participating retailers for free recycling and upcycling.
By Earth Day, April 22, Earthborn Holistic reached its goal of recycling 1 million bags, equal to diverting 103,356 lbs of waste from landfills. “We’re thrilled to have hit the one millionth milestone,” said Brandi Kramer, marketing coordinator at Midwestern Pet Foods. “A big thank you goes out to all of our loyal customers and retailers who participate in both of these programs. We couldn’t have achieved this without you. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that we’re making a difference. At Midwestern Pet Foods, we love producing nutritious food for pets while simultaneously supporting sustainability.” Read more about sustainability in the pet food and treat industry.

Terracycle Partners with Strivectin to Create Recycling Program

Recyclers can earn TerraCycle points that can be redeemed for donations to nonprofit organizations or schools of their choice with every shipment. image.png
StriVectin, a smart skin care pioneer, has launched a new way for consumers to care for both their skin and the planet in partnership with international recycling leader, TerraCycle.
Through the StriVectin Recycling Program, recyclers can earn TerraCycle points that can be redeemed for donations to nonprofit organizations or schools of their choice with every shipment.
“Together, StriVectin and TerraCycle aim to keep as many of these products out of landfills as possible, allowing consumers to enjoy clinically-backed skin care and a clean planet,” said TerraCycle CEO and Founder, Tom Szaky.
Through the StriVectin Recycling Program, consumers can now send empty StriVectin packaging including plastic tubes, cream, pots, pumps, sprays, jars, complex closures, and glass packaging to be recycled for free.
The StriVectin Recycling Program is open to any interested individual, school, office, or community organization.
To participate, sign up on the TerraCycle program page and mail in the packaging waste using the prepaid shipping label provided. Once collected, the packaging is cleaned and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled products.
For more information on TerraCycle’s recycling programs, visit www.terracycle.com.

Walmart and Sam's Club shoppers invited to recycle at select locations

Walmart announced a collaboration with international recycling leader, TerraCycle, and invites shoppers to divert a variety of locally unrecyclable waste from landfills. Using drop-off recycling hubs outside of the Springdale, Arkansas and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma Supercenters, as well as at the Fayetteville, Arkansas Sam's Club, shoppers can drop off the following waste streams for recycling: Skincare and beauty products, soft plastic food packaging, oral care products, food and drink pouches, home and garden supplies packaging, coffee capsules and water filters, plastic bottles, worn clothing, pet food packaging, plastic bags and shipping materials, plastic toys, ink cartridges and office supplies. To participate, shoppers should bring their accepted waste that is not curbside recyclable, to the designated recycling hubs outside the Walmart Supercenters and Sam's Club locations. When the hub station is full, TerraCycle will pick up and transport the waste to regional material recovery facilities where it will be sorted by material type and recycled into raw materials that can be used to make products, like playgrounds and park benches. Participants are urged to visit https://corporate.walmart.com/community-recycling-hub for more information.
 "Customers expect us to provide them with opportunities to shop sustainably. They are keen to do the right thing when it comes to recyclability and waste, and access to recycling is an avenue where we know we can play a role given our presence in so many communities. These pilots with TerraCycle will allow us to learn how to make it easier for people to recycle as well as inform our goals and journey toward zero waste," said Zach Freeze, senior director for sustainability at Walmart.
For information on these programs, visit www.terracycle.com.

4 Reality Checks About Packaging and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Kids are visual — and keyed in to change. So, when a friend’s 10-year-old, Everleigh, engaged me in a conversation about what plastics were doing to the oceans, I gave her my full attention. “Let me show you,” she said. She pulled up a Tik-tok video, and I watched as a massive crane dumped thousands upon thousands of large plastic containers and other debris onto the deck of a ship. Part of the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch, this junk had been successfully scooped up from the sea. Everleigh’s excitement over the progress this video shares is why we see so many leading brands pledge to help rid the planet of waste. She is their future customer. Or maybe not. Here’s what we know: • 92% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is comprised of large-sized debris, containing nearly 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. • 8% of the GPGP is comprised of single-use plastic packaging, but a larger percentage is tossed into rivers where debris flows downstream, breaks apart. and end up on the ocean floor. • Compounding this problem, large debris eventually breaks down to pieces no larger than a centimeter, called “microplastics.” • Over time, microplastics sink to the ocean floor where they are impossible to remove; they are mistaken for food by marine life. • Discarded fishing nets — also known as ghost nets — along with other fishing industry debris, account for 46% of the GPGP’s mass. Marine life often gets caught in the nets. Reality Check #1: According to the National Geographic Society, as of 2018, it would take 67 ships operating every day for one year to rid the GPGP of just 1% of the debris. Can it be cleaned up? Although the outlook seems bleak, there are advances under way that leverage science and technology to clean up the GPGP. The Ocean Clean Up project announced in October of 2021 that its experimental clean-up fleet had successfully cleared more than 63,000 pounds of plastic debris in a single haul. Based on these findings, the organization is increasing its fleet and is greatly optimistic it’ll reduce up to 50% of the patch every five years, with the end goal of removing the great patch altogether by 2040. It’s worth noting that these projections include debris that is continuously being added to the patch. Reality check #2: According to Covestro, a global supplier of high-tech polymer materials, “Infrastructure systems designed to manage and collect waste have struggled to keep up with the dramatic rise of single-use plastics in circulation, and as a result, plastic pollution has increased rapidly in recent years, especially in developing countries.” Why add to the patch in the first place? It’s long been my belief as a packaging designer that the problem is not only the patch itself, but the process that created it. In other words, we have a responsibility to accelerate packaging innovation to avoid adding fuel to the fire that is the patch. We need smarter ways to design reusable and biodegradable packaging and become true players in the circular economy. Remember, the next generation is watching. Kids are not only seeing the tortoise in distress with the straw in its nose; they are also learning about the perils of plastic in school. Brands that take this seriously will not only make good on their pledges, but fuel their appeal to the next generation and outperform lagging competitors. So, who’s getting it right? Loop Ulta Beauty Group Shot-web_0.jpg Closing the Loop. Loop is a subscription service for food and household goods, launched by TerraCycle. The Loop services are offered through major chains such as Walgreens and Kroger. Currently testing their concept nationally, the service provides people with products in reusable packaging, such as shampoo bottles and ice cream containers. Once empty, packaging is picked up, refilled, and reused. Loop has also partnered with Ulta Beauty, a national personal care brand, to offer its portfolio of sustainable products. As befits its name, Loop is a prime example of the emerging circular economy. Companies are reinventing reusable. Just take a look at what Häagen-Dazs is offering through Loop. As part of a reusable delivery strategy, the brand created an attractive stainless-steel canister. The design is ideal for a premium brand. The containers provide a new canvas for packaging ingenuity. Reminiscent of old-school metal lunch canisters, images and graphics jump off the silver background. With such a substantial upgrade, Häagen-Dazs stands out from other premium ice creams, essential in a competitive category. Thanks to this packaging, the ice cream is even more fun and delicious to eat. The double-walled container allows the ice cream to melt more quickly at the top than at the bottom. This way, people enjoy a balanced level of density. The ice cream maintains its consistency even when you reach the bottom. The container also protects the product throughout transport. This is more than just sustainable packaging; it’s packaging that elevates the consumer experience. Colgate-recyclable-tubes-web.jpg It’s on record, more than a billion toothpaste tubes in the US alone end up in landfills. No doubt many go to the oceans. One reason for this is that the packaging is manufactured with multiple layers making it ineligible for recycling. Colgate-Palmolive spent five years developing a new recyclable tube made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the same plastic that is used for milk jugs, with the promise of compatibility with our current recycling infrastructure. This is no doubt a breakthrough for the category. Reality Check #3: While this is a great concept, we know a large portion of recyclable packaging still goes to waste. That’s because our recycling industry (the people who pick up/sort our trash) urgently needs an overhaul. How does the recycling facility know the difference between this tube and every other? Tom-Newmaster-recyclable-tubes-quote-web.jpg Sugarcane — how sweet it is. Sugarcane usage as a packaging material is blowing up right now. It possesses the trifecta of ethical packaging benefits: it’s renewable, biodegradable, and compostable. In fact, anything made from sugarcane will degrade within 60 to 90 days. We’re seeing it everywhere: coffee cups, utensils, single-use plates, to-go boxes, bags, lids, pizza boxes, straws, and tons more. Companies like Good Start Packaging — a leading source of sugarcane packaging — are also a real threat to expanded polystyrene foam (EPS). Here’s a material that takes 500 years to degrade and consumes 30% of the space in every landfill. If it goes to the ocean, EPS inevitably breaks down into microplastic. And we all know what that does to marine life. A parting word from Everleigh.
I mentioned my friend’s daughter Everleigh who, at 10, is passionate about preserving our oceans. So, what can we do to assure her generation they’re being heard? We can start by taking accountability for the role our industries play in addressing the problems. I’ve talked about some of the innovations and new materials that packagers are bringing to the table. I’ve also shared what activists are doing to clean up the GPGP. But here’s the final reality check. Reality check #4: We can fix the mistakes of past generations, but it takes more forward thinking to make our efforts toward sustainability “sustainable.” Four questions we need to ask ourselves to really bring about change: 1.  How can we improve the recycling infrastructure so that the degradable toothpaste tube goes to the right place? According to Unilever, “It’s technically possible to recycle about 70% of our product portfolio. However, what is actually recycled is lower because of the lack of infrastructure of communities.” 2.  How we ensure that new materials, whether sugarcane or innovative plastics, get sorted correctly and not end up in the ocean? 3.  How do we advance the use of products that truly fit the circular economy, such as reusables, compostables, and post-consumer recycled plastics (PCR)? 4.  How do we partner with our clients to create packaging that would delight Everleigh’s generation? This starts with avoiding new plastics; instead using only recycled options. As a packaging designer, I realize this isn’t a small ask, but a necessary one, considering the power each generation has on the way we live our lives, conduct business, and confront change. If we want to create a loyal customer base, we need to accept that the “wonder material” known as plastic needs to adapt well to our new circular economy.

A Closer Look at Kroger’s Growing Reusable Packaging Program

Kroger recently launched an assortment of products in reusable packaging in select U.S. stores via its partnership with circular packaging firm Loop. The debut marks an important expansion in the grocery retailer's larger sustainability efforts and Loop's first in-store launch. The partners debuted an in-store pilot in the U.S. at 25 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores in Portland, Oregon, and offers a variety of products to customers in reusable packaging, including products from leading national brands and  Kroger’s Simple Truth private label. Here's how the Loop partnership works: Developed by circular reuse platform TerraCycle, Loop recovers and sanitizes reusable packaging for recirculation with new products. Subscribers pay a deposit ranging from 15 cents for a glass beverage bottle to $10 for a stainless-steel container of disinfecting wipes. Participating manufacturers introduce products that employ reusable packaging. These products are placed in a designated Loop section of participating retail stores, which serve as the collection site for end users to return the packaging when the contents are consumed. In 2021, Loop revealed its global subscriber network had grown from about a dozen participating companies worldwide in 2020 to 150 in 2022. In addition to Kroger, both independent brands and other packaging end users including Nestle are expanding their reusable packaging options for their part in the program. While reuse systems are well-established for packaging products such as pallets and drums that are typically handled by nonconsumer end users, reusable packaging is also increasingly interesting in consumer markets due to the potential sustainability benefits, according to a news release from The Freedonia Group, an international industrial research company and division of Marketresearch.com. Based on the company’s collection of packaging studies, the recent release noted: According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, converting 20% of global plastic packaging into reusable packaging represents a $10 billion business opportunity. When end users reuse the packaging as intended, these items are less likely to enter solid waste streams (whether recycling or composting facilities, or the landfill), resulting in a reduction of total packaging waste. In addition, recirculated packaging reduces the overall material requirements of packaging production as fewer new products are needed. While recirculated packaging is most common in food and beverage categories, it is also seeing increased use in personal care and household items, as well as in e-commerce, according to the release. For instance, in 2021, major shipping concerns including FedEx Express and InPost, introduced reusable e-commerce packaging solutions across multiple European markets that could translate to the U.S. market. walgreens_how_it_works_2_final.png a store in a library In addition to its Kroger partnership, Loop is also launching its products in select Duane Reade stores, owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance, in the greater New York metro area later this year. “Walgreens is excited about this opportunity to help consumers purchase sustainably packaged products and contribute to a healthier planet," Lauren Brindley, Walgreens group vice president of beauty and personal care, said in a Loop news release. "Innovative collaborations with partners like Loop are critical to solving the complex issue of reducing single-use plastics. Our customers look to us to innovate so that together we can reduce waste and increase re-use.”

Murad Announces Partnership With TerraCycle

image.png Every shipment of packaging sent to TerraCycle also earns collector points that can be used for charitable gifts or converted to cash and donated to a non-profit, school or charitable organization of their choice. Murad is partnering with TerraCycle for the Murad Recycling Program, in which customers can recycle Murad product packaging while earning charitable donations for non-profits. Once collected, the packaging is cleaned and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled products. Every shipment of packaging sent to TerraCycle also earns collector points that can be used for charitable gifts or converted to cash and donated to a non-profit, school or charitable organization of their choice. Murad is seeking a 50% reduction in its use of virgin plastic by 2025, the integration of 50% PCR components by 2030 and to be 100% recyclable by 2030. Achieving these goals will reduce the total amount of virgin plastic going in landfills by 750,000 pounds by 2025 and 1.25 million pounds by 2030. To participate in the program, visit www.murad.com/terracycle/. Howard Murad, MD, founder of Murad, said, "Today, consumers understand more than ever the importance of sustainability. "It has been my life's work, and the foundation of Murad, to help people attain healthier skin and happier lives. Through our newly founded partnership with TerraCycle, we further strengthen this pledge by providing easy steps to help our community support the health of our planet. Because wellness for the planet is just as important as wellness for the people.” TerraCycle CEO and founder, Tom Szaky, said, "Murad is giving their customers the unique opportunity to divert waste from landfills by offering them a way to responsibly dispose of their cosmetic packaging. In turn, by participating in the Murad Recycling Program, consumers can demonstrate their respect for the environment not only through the products that they choose to include in their beauty regimen, but also by how the packaging is disposed of.”

Recycling Mystery: Coffee Bags

If you’re a java lover who purchases coffee in bags rather than metal cans, you’ve likely wondered, “Can I recycle coffee bags?” at some point. As is the case for so many packaging items, the answer is, “Maybe, but probably not curbside.” In the recycling realm, some folks declare, “If in doubt, toss it out.” It’s preferable to discard items unless you know for sure your local recycling facility accepts them. That’s because non-recyclable items potentially interfere with efficient sorting at the recycling facility. Sometimes, they disrupt the functioning of equipment. A recycling facility may dump out full loads of worthy recyclable items when they’re mixed with non-recyclable items. Non-recycling discards often include coffee bags.

Probably Not Curbside

Unless your program specifically accepts coffee bags, including them in your curbside bin jeopardizes the recycling load. Usually, household recycling programs do not recycle empty coffee bags, even if the exterior looks like paper or foil. Representatives from the recycling industry, including Rumpke and WM, say the flexible packaging for your java beans and grounds is often manufactured with mixed materials. For example, paper or foil bags are often lined with plastic. Bags layered with varied materials are not in demand for recycling, the representatives said. Packaging that’s paper only is likely recyclable, but most coffee bags have an inner coating to preserve the freshness of the beans. “If you are a coffee drinker, the best option is a reusable container. But if that’s not an option, a recyclable paper bag is best,” says Amanda Pratt of Rumpke.

Reduce Waste

On its website San Jose Recycles, the City of San Jose offers a recommendation to reduce packaging waste. “Instead of buying single bags of coffee, buy coffee beans from the bulk section of your supermarket. Bring an empty coffee bag or jar into the store for your coffee instead of using a brand new container every time.” If you buy beans from bulk bins, ask your grocer if using your own jar or pouch is allowed.

Recycling by Mail

These TerraCycle programs offer recycling opportunities for empty coffee packaging that is not usually accepted with household recycling.


Dunkin’ and TerraCycle established a free recycling program for eligible Dunkin’-brand coffee bags. If you want to participate, you need to establish a TerraCycle account and enroll online. When you’ve filled a box with Dunkin’ bags, print out a free UPS shipping label and ship off your empties. “We encourage you to ship when your box is full to minimize the transportation carbon footprint for this program,” the TerraCycle website states.

Don Francisco’s

Don Francisco’s Coffee Family Reserve bags from F. Gaviña & Sons are also eligible for free recycling with TerraCycle. In addition to the empty bags, the TerraCycle partnership program also accepts:
  • Don Francisco’s single-serve coffee pods and espresso capsules
  • Café La Llave espresso capsules and espresso-style single-serve coffee pods
Learn more about the free program online.

Zero Waste Box

TerraCycle accepts a variety of hard-to-recycle waste items through its fee-based Zero Waste Box program. This is a good option for businesses or organizations that generate a lot of the specified waste type. For coffee-related recyclables, these programs include:

TerraCycle Recycles

TerraCycle explains that the empty bags may be melted into hard plastic, which can be remolded to make new products such as park benches and picnic tables. Mary Ellen Down of TerraCycle states, “We work with brands, retailers, and other stakeholders who fund the recycling process. We have in-house scientists and material application specialists who work out how to recycle all kinds of materials. We then use our global network of processors to convert the items into raw material, which is then sold to manufacturing companies.”

Upcycled Coffee Bags

If you’d like to upcycle your empty bags, here are some decorative and fun projects:
  • Weave a bag or basket from empty coffee bags; the instructions are on YouTube.
  • Turn a foil-lined bag into a tabletop planter (from We Must Be Dreamers) or a hanging planter (from Instructables).
  • Make a coffee bag bracelet with help from instructions on YouTube.
Also, check out the ESPRESSO selection of handmade accessories created from upcycled coffee bags.

Shop Wisely

Some producers, cafes, and coffee shops are working on establishing or enhancing eco-friendly packaging and recycling programs. Australian coffee roaster and cafe chain Industry Beans, for example, favors Eco Barista™ recyclable coffee bags. “These bags are made using soft plastics (polyethelyn), stripping away aluminum and using a removable valve to ensure the bag can be recycled and coffee is protected and kept fresh,” states the website. Tell your favorite suppliers you’re eager to support their sustainability endeavors. Happy sipping.

How To Recycle (& Reuse) Plastic Bags So They Stay Out Of The Landfill

Plastic was made to last forever, but the sad reality is most of it is used only once before being tossed in the trash. And plastic bags are one of the most prevalent sources of single-use plastic out there. In this guide, we'll explain what makes these bags so harmful to the environment and share ways to recycle them so they don't end up in the landfill—or worse, in the environment.
How plastic bags harm the planet.
We use an estimated one million plastic bags worldwide every minute, and they last an average of just 12 minutes before being thrown away.
Most of these bags are made from either No. 2 high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or No. 4 low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). (Grocery and retail shopping bags are typically made of HDPE, whereas plastic films like the ones you find on dry cleaning are made of LDPE or LLDPE.) These soft plastics are made of fossil fuels, so they emit greenhouse gases at every stage of their life cycle—down to when they're baking in the sun in a landfill, where they can take anywhere from 50 to 1,200 years to fully decompose.
Plastic bags not only contribute to climate change; they pollute the planet. These bags are thin and lightweight enough to end up in places they shouldn't be, like our oceans. Floating in the ocean with direct and consistent exposure to sunlight, plastic breaks down into microplastics that are then consumed by animals big and small. Research has found that 60% of fish studied globally contain microplastics, and whales have been discovered dead with stomachs full of plastic waste. Humans also consume microplastics in food and drinking water, and these tiny particles have now been detected in our blood for the first time.
Clearly, the same durability that makes plastic so convenient for consumers makes it extremely hard to break down in the environment. Recycling is one way to keep these bags in circulation for longer so they don't end up as planet-warming pollution.
How plastic recycling works.
Most curbside bin programs collect rigid plastics (think water bottles, takeout containers). These plastics are sent to recycling facilities where they are cleaned, processed, and sorted by their type. Each category of plastic is then shredded and cleaned before being melted down and compressed into tiny pellets that can be reused to make new products.
The pellets generated via the recycling process aren't used to create the same plastic item as its original form, notes Stephanie Hicks, materials sourcing manager at Trex, a decking company that uses recycled materials. Instead, they are purchased in bulk and turned into materials like car parts, furniture, or clothing.
Now, you might assume that thin plastic bags can be recycled using the same process. And who could blame you; recycling rules are confusing! A recent survey commissioned by recycling program Covantra revealed that most Americans are guilty of placing things that aren't recyclable in the recycling bin (otherwise known as "wishcycling"). But unfortunately, throwing plastic bags in the bin with hard plastics puts a strain on recycling systems.
"Many people think that since other types of plastic (namely No. 1 and No. 2) are recycled through municipal programs, that means plastic bags are also accepted," says Alex Payne, North American public relations manager at recycling company TerraCycle. "This is false and actually leads to the bags clogging the highly tuned recycling machinery, leading to losses in time, money, and the otherwise recyclable material that the plastic bags become intermingled with."
The extra labor required to fix the machinery and the equipment downtime makes recycling programs less profitable over time.
Ways to recycle plastic bags.
While you shouldn't toss bags in with your other recyclables, there are a few other options for keeping them out of landfills and the environment. Here are three to look into:
1. Take them back to the grocery store.
Many grocery and retail stores have designated drop-off receptacles conveniently located near the store entrance. Some receptacles also accept other types of plastic film, including cereal box liners, produce bags, and even dry-cleaning bags. If your local store doesn't have a drop-off program, suggest one and help make a positive change in your community.
2. Look for a corporate recycling program in your area.
Companies like Trex collect their materials through public drop-off bins where consumers can discard their plastic film to be repurposed. They currently have a network of about 32,000 collection locations at stores and distribution centers across the United States and Canada. Check out the full list here to see if there's one in your area.
3. Use a mail-in recycling program.
TerraCycle also offers mail-in recycling programs for certain pesky packaging that isn't collected curbside. Check out what's collected in their free mail-ins here, and learn about their recycling boxes that are available for purchase here.
All of these recycling programs help ensure there is no contamination between recyclable and non-recyclable materials, resulting in a clean recycling stream.
What to do with plastic bags before recycling.
Like with common recyclables, Payne notes that plastic bags should be clean and dry and free of any debris, such as receipts, adhesive labels/stickers, etc. before recycling. If bags are not completely clean of food residue, they risk being sent to landfills.
Repurposing plastic bags at home.
It's important to remember that Recycling alone will not save the planet. We have to focus first on Reducing and Reusing our bags and treat recycling as the last resort it is intended to be. On the reuse front, there are many ways to give plastic bags a second or even third life at home.
Start by unlearning the notion that they are single-use and continuing to use them for groceries until they can no longer withstand the weight. They can also be used for:
  • Lining waste bins
  • Covering plants to protect them from frost
  • Soaking your showerhead to descale
  • Stuffing them into shoes to help hold their shape
  • Separating wet stuff from dry in your pool/beach bag
  • Storing a few in the car for emergency waste needs
  • Keeping your shoes away from your clothes in your suitcase
  • Keeping your brushes and rollers from drying out in at-home paint jobs
  • Storing small items such as holiday decorations, string lights, etc.
  • DIY crafts with kids
How to avoid plastic bags in the first place.
Ditching the plastic bags in favor of something reusable is an easy, actionable way to reduce your impact. Not only are cotton or heavier plastic reusable bags more durable and reliable, making your groceries more likely to survive the trip home, but they cut down on plastic litter on land and in our waters. At home, consider using reusable produce bags and sparing all of that clingy plastic film from going to waste. It should be noted that the production of reusable bags has an environmental footprint as well, so be mindful of how many you continue to add to your collection. (Remember: The most sustainable choice is reusing the bag you already have, regardless of what it is.) When traveling, pack reusable bags in your carry-on or checked luggage so you can reduce plastic waste on the road. They come in handy for shopping, picnics, and stowing your day-trip essentials too. Of course, there will be times when you forget your bag and need to accept a plastic one. Don't lose sleep over it! Just remember to bring the plastic bag back to be recycled or put it to good (re)use. The bottom line. Plastic bags are everywhere, and diverting them from landfills is one way to keep our environment cleaner and healthier. Next time you accept a plastic bag, think about its environmental impact and vow to reuse or recycle it. While you're at it, avoid getting bags in the first place using these tips for avoiding waste in one of the trashiest industries: food delivery.