That annoying little plastic bag: getting the 911 on a runaway problem

Those little plastic problems: what to do when you walk home with plastic in hand

Ok- all this sustainablity has indeed raised my awareness!  Inevitably, you end up somewhere without your green grocer bag in hand, and end up walking home with some plastic.  What to do?

Well, did you know you can recycle them too?

According to the website Status Clean, Recycled plastic bags can be reprocessed into many items, including plastic lumber, paneling, trash cans and floor tiles.

And according to, there are other post consumer products made from recycled plastic as well: plastic bags can be made into second generation products including durable building and construction products, door and window frames, exterior moldings, low-maintenance fencing and decks. Plastic bags can also be reprocessed into post-consumer resin used in the production of new bags, pallets, containers, crates and pipes.

Here are earth 911’s Top 10 Reasons to Recycle Plastic Bags

1. It’s Right Around the Corner According to the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council, more than 1,800 U.S. businesses handle or reclaim post-consumer plastics. (check out your local grocery store!)

2. It’s Worth a Thousand Words Plastic bags photodegrade, meaning they slowly break down into smaller and smaller bits that can contaminate soils and waterways.

3. We Need a Boost According to the American Chemistry Council, only about 13 percent of polyethylene bags and film were recycled in 2009.

4. Everyone Wants It There is a high demand for this material, and in most areas, demand exceeds the available supply because many consumers are not aware that collection programs are available at stores.

5. It’s Easier Than You Think It takes 91 percent less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.

6. You Can Save a Trip For every seven trucks needed to deliver paper bags, only one truck is needed for the same number of plastic bags.

7. Just Let It Burn Plastics can help trash burn more efficiently in energy-recovery facilities, creating energy that can be used to make electricity in some communities.

8. It’s Going Coast to Coast Small plastic bags made up about 9 percent of the debris found along various U.S. coasts in a five-year study.

9. Save Some Gas When one ton of plastic bags is reused or recycled, the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil is saved.

10. It’s So Trashy According to the EPA, the amount of plastics generation in municipal waste stream has increased from less than 1 percent in 1960 to 12.3 percent in 2009.

Here’s the 411 on The Recycling Process:

A plastic bag is a thermoplastic, meaning it is capable of being repeatedly softened by heat and hardened by cooling.

1. First, the plastic is melted down.

2. The softened plastic is then pushed through an extruder. To visualize this, reflect back on the days when you owned a Play-Doh kitchen set and you made delicious plates of bright green spaghetti. Squeezing Play-Doh through the little machine to make it into noodles is similar to extruding.

3. An extruder die appropriately shapes the plastic before it is cut with a knife.

4. The end result could be a large piece of composite lumber or thousands of little pellets, which can be used to make other plastic products.

What’s Next?

Though the discussion of plastic bag bans has increased (the U.N. has even suggested a global ban), San Francisco is currently the only U.S. city to outlaw them.

But, until that time, if you end up with a plastic bag, besides dirty diapers, doggie doo, and other small trash items, recycle it at your local store!

Here are some Tips on Recycling Plastic Bags that I found at 911 earth:

Due to their light weight, most curbside programs do not accept plastic bags. They can easily get stuck inside machinery when recycled as well. However, most grocery stores throughout the U.S. now offer plastic bag recycling. However, the trick is actually remembering to take those excess bags with you next time you go to the store. Here are a couple of reminding tips:

  • Hang a cloth bag in your kitchen or garage where you put excess plastic bags. It will be easy to notice once you leave the house.
  • When filling out your grocery list, make sure to add “recycle plastic bags.”
  • Don’t forget about the other light weight plastics! Plastic film, dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags and plastic wrap from products can be recycled at your grocery store as well.
  • Toss your leftover plastic bags in your reusable shopping bags. You’ll remember both on your next trip to the store.


  1. This was a very informative post! I knew that there had to be a place where you could recycle these bags, but I knew that you couldn’t find it just anywhere. Though it would be great to ban these and only use the reusable cloth bags, this is definitely the next best thing. If you are going to use these plastic bags (and I still do too because I only have a couple of the other bags) then it’s good to know not only where to recycle them, but how the process works.

  2. Great information! I know sometimes we all can forget our reusable grocery bag from time to time. In that case, consumers need to be aware that even if you do forget your bag you can still be eco-concious and recycle the plastic bags. Its great to know how the plastic bags are recycled.

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