Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reader Question

There is nothing not a lot that is better (okay if you told me I won the lottery it might be better) than receiving a reader question. It provides proof that people are reading and interested in what we have to say. So, thank you Ben! Let's get right to it.

"I have read everywhere.. including your site and facebook page.. that plastic grocery bags are recyclable but my local drop off center will not accept them. My friend suggested that they just slip them in the bag with the rest of the plastic bottles (no one checks) but I'm not sure if we should be doing that. If they are recyclable why is the local collection center adamant that they don't want to take them and where can someone take them if they are in the same boat. I'm in PA, not far from Harrisburg. Thanks in advance for you help. Ben"

So Ben, this is where recycling gets tricky. Plastic bags are without a doubt completely recyclable. To add an even more positive fact about plastic bags, they are not only recyclable but they also have a resale market (manufacturers who have a need for the material as a feed stock). Unfortunately, that alone does not always make items a suitable material for collection.

The difficult part about the bags is that they are a processing nightmare. The bags become quite soiled and wet which doesn't help but the most damning issue is that they get wrapped around sorting equipment causing lost production, down time and the need for frequent "housekeeping" to clear the screens of these nuisance bags. So, while the bags are completely recyclable not many recyclers want you to throw them in the bins and due to soiling many of the bags that do not get wrapped in the screens will end up in the garbage bin.

Despite the urge to get them of your hair (and house) I would not recommend slyly slipping them into your standard recycling bag and ignore protests of the collection center because although they are no longer "your problem" a good percentage will end up in a landfill (which in the long run affects us all).

The positive side is that there are websites dedicated to helping residents  locate a drop off center that will accept clean grocery bags. At these drop off centers they are not mixed with other materials (especially not other materials that could contain solids or liquids that could contaminant the material and prohibit recycling). Many eco minded (or at least those who want to be known as eco minded) grocery and department stores have stood behind the efforts of collecting and recycling these bags. They feel responsibility for helping to put them in the households so they feel obligated to help collect them and keep them out of landfills or worse, littered on in our environment. <----- check out this website for bag collection for recycling. If unlike Ben you are not in PA or one of the other states they "service" I'd suggest doing a browser search for "grocery bag recycling or collection"

You could also choose the crafty reuse approach .. here is a link and there are a ton more like it that shows how people have made grocery bags into "yarn" and made some pretty neat items.

So, once again, thanks so much for the question Ben I hope I answered it to your satisfaction.

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