Plastic bags and where they should be recycled

Plastic Bag Recycling in Retail Stores Only

Never put plastic bags in your blue recycling bins, or put recyclables inside plastic bags. Put recyclables directly into your blue bins.

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Problems with Petrochemical Plastics The executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said in 2009 that "There is simply zero justification for manufacturing plastic bags anymore, anywhere." Here are the reasons why: 

1. The production of single-use plastic bags made from fossil fuels is not sustainable: Single-use bags are not the highest and best use of non-renewable fossil fuels. Our overall goal is to reduce unnecessary petrochemical plastic packaging. We can’t keep fossil fuels in the ground if fossil fuels are also being used for plastic. 

2. Solid waste problems: The enormous number of plastic bags makes them difficult to manage. Even if only a small percentage of the volume becomes litter, this causes a large amount of visual blight and animal harm. Plastic pollution is most acute in the marine environment. Hundreds of marine animal species suffer injury and death. In some cases, the majority of the population of a species have been affected (such as for whales). The World Economic Forum published a study this year stating that there will be as much plastic as fish in the ocean by 2050. Commenting on the report, the CEO of the Plastic Pollution Coalition said "One of the biggest problems [to] focus on is single use and disposable plastic." These problems are compounded since petrochemical plastics do not biodegrade. Such plastics can persist for 1000 years. However, they are subject to fragmentation, and may enter our human food chain. Plastic bags are not easily recycled and suffer from especially low recycling rates compared to valuable natural materials like paper. Pre- and post-consumer contamination makes them unsuitable for food or medical applications. Intentional contaminants include additives and dyes. Plastics are generally downcycled into non-recyclable products such as plastic lumber. The printing inks reduce its already extremely low value. 

3. Plastic packaging is bad for human health: Satisfying the demand for the raw materials of plastics is one of the causes of the growth of fracking. Concerns around fracking include the exposure to toxic fracking chemicals, water use and pollution, and the generation of huge volumes of toxic liquid waste. The industry is not required to list additives to plastics, which can migrate from the bag into the contents and be ingested by consumers. These chemicals include dyes and copolymers. In addition, there are chemical impurities and contaminants from the manufacturing process. 

Sustainable Bags The most sustainable packaging uses natural materials such as paper or cloth. Such materials are biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable. We also want to encourage the use of re-usable solutions.