Recycling plastic correctly can be a challenge for even the most well-intentioned people. The numbered recycle icons are misleading and cities struggle to find a good solution that doesn't risk the existing recycling system.
Plastic film is a particularly problematic type that can be recycled (just not in your curbside bins)!
Want to save your plastic from the landfill?
In technical terms, plastic film is usually made up of low-density polyethylene (or LDPE) and sometimes carries the plastic #4 logo. More practically we like to think of it as anything that’s ‘scrunchable’ and a single material (meaning it does not have metal or paper in it or affixed to it).
Packaging is often made up of plastic film because of how lightweight and flexible it is. Here are some examples:
If it’s 100% plastic, scrunchable (like a grocery bag), and clean, it is acceptable for plastic film recycling!
Plastic film is occasionally labelled with this store drop-off logo.
Hot tip – keep an eye out for the store drop-off logo at the grocery store and in many of your Amazon packages!
When plastic film is mixed with other materials like paper (padded envelopes) or metal (chip bags), it can no longer be recycled even through drop off locations. Recyclers are unable to separate component materials.
When plastic film has food on it, it also can't be recycled. Unwashed meat packaging is a common offender.
Finally, if plastic is hard and can't be "scrunched" you'll want to check with your recycling provider for guidelines.
Paper + plastic
Our modern recycling centers were not set up to handle plastic film. These facilities do a great job of separating sturdier material like metal, glass, and even higher-density plastic like detergent bottles.
Plastic film is a different story. Because it is flexible and light-weight, these items get caught in the machinery. When this happens, the entire line stops, wasting time and money. Even bagged plastic can cause problems as it can come apart and requires people to remove it manually from the process. That’s why PBS recently produced a video urging consumers to not recycle this type curbside:
Throwing plastic film away prevents it from jeopardizing our recycling programs, but comes with other issues. Thin plastics are lightweight and can get practically anywhere on their way to the landfill. We see it on our streets, in parks, and inevitably in our steams, lakes, and oceans.
Even if plastic film makes it to the landfill, it stays there for a very long time. According to the National Geographic, scientists estimate that plastic takes at least 450 years to break down if not thousands of years more.
Fortunately, there is a better option than throwing your plastic film away or sending it away in your blue bin. That option is dedicated plastic film recyclers and these recyclers have drop off locations in our community.
Occasionally, grocery stores around town have drop-offs for this sort of plastic. We learned plastic film is a component of decking material like Trex and are thrilled that our plastic film is used for this purpose instead of ending up in the landfill.
We offer pickup of plastic film as one of our four core categories every two weeks.
Don’t spend time driving around the city looking for a drop-off location. Don’t worry about your bag of bags splitting at the recycling facility. Don’t feel guilty about throwing it away.
This has been, by far, our customers most used category. For some, it was so impactful that they went down a garbage bin size!