Plastic bags are rapidly becoming the widest-spread litter issue in America. Because of their composition and extremely light weight, plastic bags and film plastic require special handling. Most materials recovery facilities, or MRFs, aren't equipped to handle them. When tossed in a trashcan, the bags frequently escape and are blown about by the smallest breeze. Occasionally, the bags are even blown out of trash disposal trucks.
In order to keep plastic bags from cluttering streets, clinging to the Joshua trees, and jamming up recycling equipment in the MRF, take them back to the grocery store for proper recycling by the manufacturers.
California supermarkets and large retailers with a pharmacy must accept plastic bags for recycling. In its first three years, the at-store recycling rate increased by 50% -- from 2% to 3%. By comparison, Californians now recycle their aluminum cans at a 95% rate, and the overall statewide recycling rate is 65%.
What can you do?
Every Californian uses about 10 plastic bags weekly. Most bags are used only once and then discarded.
- It's OK not to take a bag if you are only buying a single item.
- Use a fabric bag. They are stronger than thin plastic (or paper) bags, and reusable hundreds of times. Remember to wash fabric bags regularly. Take them with you when you shop.
- Paper bags are easily recyclable in your curbside program. Most recycling programs don't include plastic bags, which are hard to recover at recycling facilities.
- Take your plastic bags back to the store. Use them again if they are not torn. When a bag is torn or worn out, recycle it in the store's container.