When the city of San Diego announced Nov. 15 that it is accepting once-forbidden plastics in blue bins — Cactus Recycling, that accepts Styrofoam blocks from businesses that generate large quantities.
Why aren’t plastic bags recyclable? What about plastic wrap? Or six-pack holders?
It is cost prohibitive to recycle plastic bags or other types of plastic film or plastic wrap in the curbside program. The recycled bags have little value, and when collected get badly contaminated, decreasing their value further. There are virtually no markets in the U.S. for curbside-recovered plastic bags, and international markets are not much better. A bigger problem with collecting plastic bags curbside is that they get wound up in collection and processing equipment, requiring maintenance that costs money and time, and creates inefficiencies for processing all the recyclables.
Returning plastic bags to your supermarket is the most effective way to recycle them. The plastics stay clean and recyclable. The clean bags are backhauled to the chains’ warehouses where they are baled and either returned to the original suppliers or sold to other markets such as manufacturers of plastic lumber. Even better is to bring your own reusable bags when you shop.