Facts on Recycling Synthetic Polymers


In the United States the FTC has began to regulate the term recycling because the infrastructure of recycling plants do not exist. Recycling plastic carry out bags are very limited and many counties and states do not recycle plastic bags.

Almost all curbside recycling programs do not accept plastic bags – so plastic bags should be dropped off at grocery stores with plastic bag recycling programs. If you put plastic bags in your curbside recycling bin, they often clog machines at recycling facilities and thus actually hinder the recycling process.

Even at the grocery store, you may only recycle clean and dry plastic bags and films, including the following:

  • plastic carryout bags
  • newspaper bags
  • dry cleaning bags
  • bread & produce bags
  • zip lock bags (remove hard components)
  • plastic cereal box liners
  • case wrap/shipping packaging (diapers, snacks, water bottles, paper towels)

According to the EPA’s 2009 Municipal Waste Characterization Study, the recycling rate for plastic HDPE films (plastic bags, sacks, & wraps) was 6.1%.  (see page 53.)

This statistic is artificially high when used as a reference point by proponents of plastic bag recycling because it includes all wraps and packaging, like “industrial stretch films” used in shipping, not just plastic bags.

This statistic is also questionable, because one of the primary sources of data regarding plastics recovery used for the study were annual product recovery surveys conducted for the American Chemistry Council.  (see page 54.)  The American Chemistry Council is a plastics industry group and has a monetary interest in promoting the production of plastic products, thus the use of their data appears to be a conflict of interest.

*Resource http://plasticbaglaws.org/get-involved/plastic-bag-recycling/

While recycling is a good thing when there is recycling centers which take the plastic bags, many do not. While recycling many other plastic articles do make economical and environmental sense, recycling plastic bags are very difficult and must be extremely clean in order for these products to be reused by bag manufactures.

Biodegradable Plastic made by BioSphere Plastic does not change the recycling stream. You can find out more information about BioSphere Biodegradable Plastic Additive here.

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