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Return Plastic Bags and Wraps

Return Plastic Bags and Wraps

Did you know that plastic bags and wraps are the #1 contaminant in the single-stream recycling process? In 2020, the OneSTL Materials and Recycling Working Group launched an awareness and education campaign centered on encouraging St. Louis area residents to return their plastic bags and wraps to local retailers. Using reusable bags to avoid plastic waste is the best option. But if you end up with plastic bags or wraps you can't avoid, you can bring them to a location for recycling.

Why It's Important

While the transition to single-stream recycling has resulted in many great benefits, contaminants - particularly plastic bags and wraps - can be a real challenge.

Plastic bags and wraps are recyclable, they're just NOT recyclable through single-stream process. When plastic bags and wraps get mixed with the six acceptable items, they create a few challenges when they get mixed with the six acceptable items - specifically:

1. They Create More Waste

When plastic bags and wraps are mixed among approved items, sorting facilities end up with a tangled mess of what once were good recyclable items. Plastic bags and wraps end up diverting good recyclables away from processing centers - and these good recyclable items end up in the landfill. This wastes all the effort of recycling and results in creating MORE WASTE.

2. They Create Downtime in Processing Facilities

When plastic bags and wraps end up at recycling centers, equipment becomes jammed and sorting processes have to be stopped. Some days, 5 hours of production time is lost. This increases processing costs by millions and causes some processing facilities to run at 67% of full capacity. This WASTES time and energy.

3. They Create Dangerous Conditions for Workers

Plastic bags get snagged in sorting machines and workers have to untangle these obstructions by hand. The process of clearing jammed equipment is incredibly dangerous for recycling center workers. They actually have to climb into machinery and cut the tangled bags and wraps out by hand. This DANGER can be avoided. It is about keeping plastic bags and wraps out of home recycling bins (single-stream).

How You Can Help

First, use reusable bags! If you end up with plastic bags or wraps, just drop them in local recycling bins at retailers you are likely already walking by at least once a week. It's simple, any plastic bags and wraps you get from the store... go to your home... then back to the store. NOT in the trash. You can print a flyer here that has the list of all types of plastic bags and wraps that can go back to the store.

Where to Bring Them

The OneSTL Working Group has worked with Schnucks to update the signage on all their collection bins, so look for signage at all metro STL area Schnucks stores. In addition to Schnucks, many other retailers have recycling centers. All of these centers are typically located right by the main entrance to a store. Look for recycling centers at Dierberg, Target, Lowe's, Save-a-lot and other similar retailers. You can search for recycling locations here.

What You Can Do At Home

The ask is pretty simple: use reusable bags. If you need to recycle plastic bags and wraps, put them in the correct, designated place - NEVER put them in your household reycling bin. 

Some Tips

Simplify your recycling efforts by collecting plastic bags and wraps in one place in your home:

  • Hang a collection bag on a hook in a closet.
  • Place a bin specifically for plastic bags and wraps recycling in your pantry.
  • Repurpose a reusable shopping bag as a home collection center.

You'll be ready to bring them back to the store on your next shopping trip! 

Learn More

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Make a change that makes a difference - return plastic bags and wraps to the right place!