Bags: Just the Beginning of Stretchy Plastic Recycling!

Bags: Just the Beginning of Stretchy Plastic Recycling!
Bags: Just the Beginning of Stretchy Plastic Recycling!

You’ve likely seen them: The “Plastic Bags” drop-off bins located outside of Publix and Kroger, by the checkout lines at Target, in Wal-Mart’s customer service lobby, and at many other local stores. They’re everywhere!

In Gwinnett County, these store drop-off sites are the only way to recycle plastic bags. Don’t put them in your curbside bin! When bags are placed in curbside recycling bins along with our bottles, cans, and containers, they get too dirty and wet to be recycled and can even jam sorting machinery at the recycling facility—a common and costly occurrence. If you’re not ready yet to say goodbye to plastic and make the switch to reusable bags, collecting your grocery and other shopping bags and putting them in these convenient store drop-off bins is a great (and easy) thing to do.

Did you know? Much more than just grocery and shopping bags is welcome in those bins! Bags are made up of polyethylene plastic—and so are a lot of other items we use every day. In addition to plastic grocery bags, carryout bags, and all other retail bags labeled #2 or #4, bins marked “Plastic Bags” accept the following items:

  • Product packaging wrap (used on paper towels, diapers, toilet paper, water bottles, and more)
  • Furniture wrap
  • Pallet wrap/stretch wrap
  • Newspaper and magazine sleeves
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Bread bags
  • Produce bags
  • Zip-close food storage bags
  • Bubble wrap and air pillows (deflated)

In general, if the plastic stretches, rather than rips, when you pull it with your fingers, it can be recycled in store Plastic Bag drop-off bins. If it’s wet, dry it before recycling. If there are labels, tape, or adhesive strips on the plastic, remove these first, and don’t worry if they leave a hole.

Not all plastic bags and plastic wraps are recyclable. If it tears like paper or crinkles loudly when you crush it in your hand (think candy wrappers, flower bouquet wrap, or chip bags), it’s not recyclable. If it’s thicker plastic, like pet food bags or bedding bags with a zipper, it’s not recyclable. Frozen food bags and prewashed salad bags are not recyclable. Six-pack rings are not recyclable. Plastic cling wrap is also not recyclable—the chemicals and resins added to make it “clingy” make it too difficult to process. And if it’s dirty, throw it out—even if it’s the right kind of plastic.

Plastic bags are recycled into many different products. Most bags and film are turned into composite lumber for low-maintenance fencing and decking. They’re also reprocessed into small pellets or post-consumer resin to create new bags, pallets, containers, crates, and pipe. Unfortunately, today only about 3% of plastic bags consumed are recycled—a scary statistic when you consider that over one billion plastic bags are used every day.

Do your part: Recycle stretchy plastic!



  • Avatar
    Mike Goetz Posted January 8, 2020 8:52 am

    I own a grocery store in Iowa and looking for a good bin for recycling plastic bags. Do you know where the ones in this article were purchased. It’s the best I have seen.

    • Laura
      Laura Posted January 10, 2020 8:00 pm

      I’m sorry, I don’t know where they were purchased. I do know these bins pictured are at Publix Supermarkets. Maybe there is a contact there you could reach out to. Good luck!


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