Should Recycling Be Put in Plastic Garbage Bags?

Putting your recycling into plastic bags is a convenient way to haul all those bottles, cans and boxes to the recycling center or curb. But if you leave recyclables in plastic bags once you deposit it in the recycling bin, you might accidentally cause everything inside the bag to end up in a landfill instead.

Housewife throwing paper into bin
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Putting your recycling into plastic bags is a convenient way to haul all those bottles, cans and boxes to the recycling center or curb.

It all depends on your municipal codes and/or the recycling company's guidelines. Here's how to figure out whether your recycling should be put in plastic garbage bags or some alternative solutions.

Checking Your Municipal Rules

Your local municipality website should have a section for Public Works that includes information about recycling. Go there to find out what you can and can't recycle in city-run recycling bins. If it states you can't recycle plastic bags, even recyclable trash bags, that means you need to open any plastic bags and dump out the recycling into the appropriate bin, then throw away or reuse the plastic bag.

Municipal Blue Bag Programs

On the other hand, your local city might encourage you to put recycling in a special type of trash bag. Municipal blue bag programs make recycling as easy as taking out the trash. All you have to do is put your recycling in a special blue bag and it's picked up with the trash. Thanks to the blue color, municipal waste staff can easily sort recycling from the trash when it arrives at the waste facility.

Check With Your Private Waste Company

If your neighborhood contracts with a private waste or recycling company, they may have slightly different rules for recycling compared to the local municipality. Visit their website, look over the literature you received on sign-up or call the company to ask if you can recycle plastic bags.

Alternatives for Carrying Recyclables

If you really want to cut down on the amount of waste you send to a landfill, don't stuff your recyclables into a plastic bag for transportation. Instead, reuse large cardboard boxes to collect recyclables. When this box gets full, load it up into your car and bring it to a municipal recycling drop-off location.

If you get curbside pickup, you should have been issued a small recycling bin. Keep this handy, like outside your back door or in your garage, and put recyclables directly in the bin before hauling it out to the curb each week.

Finally, you can choose to use compostable plastic bags. Compostable trash bags in landfills won't stay there for thousands of years like normal plastic bags. Instead, they'll biodegrade and disappear into the soil. You can even bring the bags home and compost them in your own pile if you want to take full responsibility for your waste.

Recycling Plastic Grocery Bags

Many grocery stores allow plastic grocery bags to be returned for recycling. These receptacles are located near the entrance of the store, either outside the store, just inside the door with the carts or as you first enter the shopping area. If in doubt, don't hesitate to ask an employee where you can drop off your bags.


Cathy Habas

Cathy Habas

Cathy Habas enjoys distilling even the most complicated home improvement tasks into bite-sized pieces. She believes in empowering homeowners one article at a time.