Not All Plastic Bags, Wraps, and Sacks Are Created Equally

While many people believe that all plastics are the same – it is simply not true. We are surrounded by many different types of plastic, each useful for its unique purpose. There is a common misconception that anything plastic can simply be put in a curbside recycling container or taken back to a grocery store recycling bin, when in fact, there are some types of plastic packaging that cannot be recycled in either of these ways.

Packaging made from several types of plastics such as polypropylene (PP) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is not recyclable. If these plastics are put into the collection bins such as the ones for bags outside grocery stores, they can cause problems in recycling the usual bags. While you may not be familiar with the names of these types of plastic, I’m sure you have used a product that needs them for packaging. These packages are typically shiny, contain glue, have multiple layers or can be found in bags that contain foods, such as:

  • Frozen vegetables
  • Raw meats
  • Potato chips
  • Bubble wrap
  • Other goods in plastic bags with a zip-lock

These packages use the different types of plastics to solve specific problems with exposure to oil, water, bacteria, or even oxygen. Even though these packages are not recyclable, they still have useful purposes. For example, these packages keep food items fresh and safe for prolonged shelf-life, protect items from damage with their durability or simply are aesthetically pleasing for marketing or branding purposes. And although these take up less space in a landfill than glass or cardboard, they are not recyclable.

So how do you decide what kinds of plastic can be recycled? A good rule of thumb is to examine the “resin identifier codes” (RIC) often located inside a small triangle on the bottom or side of a plastic package; a number 2 or 4 means that the item can be easily recycled.

As you may have seen in our previous post about HIlex’s Bag-2-Bag program, plastic made out of high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and linear low-density polyethylene are all recyclable. They often appear as the following commonly purchased items that can be dropped off at recycling bins outside your local retailers:

  • Paper towels
  • Toilet tissue
  • Water bottles
  • Dry cleaning
  • Newspapers
  • Produce bags

If you ever find yourself questioning if an item is recyclable, simply check the RIC number! Avoiding the confusion of where to recycle each plastic film is one of the reasons Hilex created its Bag-2-Bag program – making it easier and more convenient to recycle plastic bags, sacks, and film. It is also a great way to help the environment and keep plastic items in the recycling stream.