General Question

susanc's avatar

Do they really recylcle plastic grocery bags? What happens then?

Asked by susanc (16134points) February 6th, 2009

I accept them at the store when I forget to bring in my cloth bags, and then I bring the plastics in to the recycle bin. But does this really work? Where do they go? Do they use them for something we actually need?

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12 Answers

dynamicduo's avatar

I don’t know off hand, but there is a bag recycling program at my local Loeb grocery store, so maybe I’ll ask next time I’m in.

I did a bit of searching and found this awesome website that offers a lot of information about recycling plastic bags of all types, both stores and at home. This PDF file in specific explains to retailers why they would want to implement such a program. Apparently, they can sell them to companies who want to buy them for use in other products, and from that PDF: In North America, it’s a market worth $2 billion and growing at 14 per cent a year! But it’s still not a lot of money, 46 cents per kilogram of bags. Then again, free money is good money, and they get the benefit of being a company that takes environmentally friendly actions.

Ria777's avatar

the local Whole Foods sells bags made from re-cycled plastic bags.

kevbo's avatar

I don’t know, Susan, but I throw mine in with the curbside recycling. Ours is pretty well mixed (aluminum, plastic and paper) and my understanding is that they use heat and/or chemicals to separate the mix into components and re-coagulate them.

robmandu's avatar

Our curbside recycling specifically does not take the plastic shopping bags (just plastics 1–7 and a bunch of other stuff).

I cart mine down to the local market where they have a recycle bin to stuff ‘em in.

I expect that they’re recycled into ingredients for food that are later labeled as _high fructose corn syrup, peanut butter, red dye #5, monosodium glutonate, natural flavors, etc.

marinelife's avatar

Interesting question. I was surprised by the statistics on here as I also either reuse the bags or return them to the store.

In fairness, here is the other side from the plastics industry.

I could not find anything about what they are recycled to except shopping tote bags as Ria777 said.

laureth's avatar

Theoretically, they get made into other plastic things, like park benches and fake lumber. What they’re not made into is anything that will hold food, since my understanding is that it’s not possible to heat the plastic to germ-killing/sanitizing levels without destroying it.

On the other hand, the grocery store near my place was collecting them from customers in the recycle bins in front of the store. There was no demand for the bags, though – no one wanted to actually take the bags away and recycle them into new things – so the store just warehoused them until the warehouse was full and then threw the overflow away, even as customers were bringing them in the front door to recycle.

So, it depends on where you toss ‘em. Why not ask?

susanc's avatar

Thanks all. I have asked, but not the right people – the baggers and checkers don’t know
or don’t want to say. When I get to management I’ll tell you. I see from all these answers that it varies.

rickpoll's avatar

I don’t know but I know i have too many under my staircase so i must re-cycle them today

emilyrose's avatar

I can’t believe I didn’t see this until now! This is a subject I am very interested in. The answer is it depends where you live. If you live in CA, yes, they do.

tramnineteen's avatar

In Oregon they don’t take them at the curb but some grocery stores will take them back. The plastic then gets re-processed somehow into new things.

gogosweetie's avatar

haha! actually, i recently got an award for eco awareness, and i got a pair of shoelaces that used to b plastic walmart sacks!

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