If you're confused by which plastic film products can or cannot be recycled - you're not alone. From grocery bags to bread bags to beverage wrappers, plastic film is everywhere in our lives but recycling it is regularly overlooked.
Let's get technical
Generally, most plastic film and bags are made from low density polyethylene (#2) or high density polyethylene (#4). Both are types of polyethylene thermoplastics which share favorable characteristics that make them ideal for packaging. Plastics marked with identification numbers 2 or 4 do not contain any barrier polymers or additives, which makes them suitable to be recycled.
What's the problem?
Although plastic film is often cheaper, lightweight and versatile, it also doesn't biodegrade or mineralize, meaning that our plastic film waste isn't going away anytime soon. Most recycling facilities are not equipped with the correct infrastructure to handle plastic film waste, which inevitably forces us to toss it in a normal trash can where the waste is doomed to live the remainder of its life in landfill. Plastic film and bags can also end up polluting our environment - it's thought that approximately 86% of ocean debris is plastic waste and can also enter food chains and even cause wildlife to die from plastic ingestion or entanglement.
Where to recycle
There is a growing demand for post-consumer recycled plastic film as it can often end up being remade into new products and high quality resins. A number of manufacturers already use plastic waste as feedstock in products such as composite lumber, pallets and new plastic film products. For example, Trex is a major end user of this waste as plastic film is a key source of raw material for their market leading wood-plastic composite products.
Unfortunately, plastic film waste often causes problems at municipal recycling facilities, meaning it's probable that your curbside collection is not the place to recycle it. The good news is that your local grocery or convenience store may supply dedicated recycling bins that are able to accept plastic waste. For example, a number of Food Lion stores provide custom, large Nexus® City Recycling Bins at the front of their stores, allowing you to conveniently and efficiently recycle your plastic film and bag waste whilst you pop in for some groceries.
Segregating our plastic film waste is a small but effective effort that can help to close the loop on plastic film recycling and encourage everyone to think beyond the plastic bag. Remember, plastic film and bags can be recycled as long as they are clean and dry but if in doubt -don't recycle items you aren't sure about.
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