Can You Recycle Plastic Garbage Bags? (The Answer Might Surprise You)

It’s no secret that our planet is in trouble. We’re dealing with a global climate crisis, and it’s more important than ever that we do our part to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and single-use plastics. But what about the plastic garbage bags we use to line our trash cans? Are they recyclable?

You've dutifully sorted your recyclables into their respective bins — plastic bottles in one, aluminum cans in another, and paper products in yet another. So what do you do with that plastic garbage bag once it's been emptied of its contents?

The answer might surprise you.

While most municipal recycling programs don’t accept plastic garbage bags, some companies will recycle them for you. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about recycling plastic garbage bags.

The Problem With Plastic Garbage Bags

Plastic garbage bags are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which is not commonly accepted by municipal recycling programs. That's because LDPE is difficult to recycle and often contaminated with food waste or other items that aren't recyclable. As a result, most recycling plants can't recycle LDPE.

In addition, even if your municipality does accept LDPE for recycling, there's a good chance that your plastic garbage bag will end up in a landfill anyway. That's because most recycling plants require that recyclables be clean and free of contaminants before they can be processed. So if your plastic garbage bag has any food waste or other non-recyclable items in it, it will likely be rejected by the plant and sent to a landfill.

Can I recycle my plastic garbage bag at home?

If your municipality has a curbside recycling program, chances are good that they don’t accept plastic garbage bags. That’s because LDPE can jam up sorting machines at recycling facilities. However, you might be able to recycle your plastic trash bags at a local grocery store or through a speciality recycling program.

What do I need to do to recycle my plastic garbage bag?

If you want to recycle your plastic garbage bag, the first step is to clean it out. Remove any food waste or other contamination, and then rinse the bag with water. Once the bag is clean, you can either take it to a local recycling center or drop it off at a participating grocery store. Some stores have special collection bins for plastic bags, while others require you to place your bags in the regular recycling bin.

What alternatives are there to recycling bags?

Most people don't realize that plastic garbage bags can't be recycled through traditional means. The best way to reduce the environmental impact of plastic garbage bags is to avoid using them altogether. If you must use them, be sure to clean them out thoroughly and try and reuse them as much as possible.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, the best way to reduce the environmental impact of plastic garbage bags is to avoid using them altogether. If you must use them, be sure to clean them out thoroughly before putting them in your recycling bin. And remember, the best way to reduce your reliance on single-use plastics is to choose reusable alternatives whenever possible.

If you found this article helpful, feel free to check out our "Are Plastic bags Recyclable" piece as well as our article on how many times plastic bags can be reused for further information on single-use plastics and how to go about them in your journey to sustainability!


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