Plastic Bag Recycling

By Eva Lewandowski

One of the most common recycling questions I get asked is whether or not we can recycle plastic bags.  Plastic bags are almost ubiquitous in our lives and sadly, most people don’t properly recycle them.

Most places in Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Duluth, do not allow residents to recycle plastic bags through curbside recycling programs.  While a few cities, like Falcon Heights, now offer plastic bag recycling, this is certainly the exception and not the norm.  If you are not sure if plastic bags are allowed in the curbside recycling in your area, it is always best to double check with your recycling provider.

Luckily, there are plenty of places to properly recycle your plastic bags, so it isn’t a huge inconvenience that they aren’t usually accepted in curbside programs.  One of the most popular plastic bag recycling programs in Minnesota is the It’s in the Bag program.  It’s in the Bag is a part of the Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM) that accepts shopping bags, bread and cereal bags, shrink wrap, and many other sorts of plastic film and bags.  You can find It’s in the Bag drop-off locations at many businesses, including some local foods co-ops.  Wisconsin W.R.A.P. is another nonprofit program that is taking off in Minnesota.  Many Minnesota Target, Rainbow, and Cub stores offer plastic bag and film recycling through this program.

Wherever you decided to recycle your plastic bags and wrappings, remember to check what materials are acceptable.  Most programs will not accept frozen food bags, which are common in many households.  Look at the signage at your drop-off facility, contact your recycling provider, or visit the websites listed below to find out exactly what types of plastic you can recycle at a location near you:

Once you’ve learned how to properly recycle the plastic bags you already have, you’ll want to think about reducing the number of bags you use and reusing them before recycling.  Remember, recycling should always be a last step.  To decrease the number of plastic bags and wrappings you go through, remember to bring reusable grocery bags and produce bags with you when shopping.  Avoid buying products with lots of extra plastic wrapping, like individual items wrapped in plastic to be sold in a multi-pack.  If you buy your food in bulk, see if your store allows you to bring your own containers; if they do, you can use glass jars rather than the plastic bags the store provides.  When you’re not able to avoid plastic, remember to reuse it as many times as you can before recycling it!

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