H2R in Action

5 things you may not know about plastic film recycling

Do I need to remove receipts from plastic shopping bags before recycling them via Store Drop-off?

Yes. If you're taking your plastic shopping bags with the Store Drop-off label to your local store for recycling, chances are, those bags could contain receipts from your last shopping trip. Be sure to discard the receipts--paper causes problems for plastic film recyclers. Similarly, if there's a paper label on your plastic bag or wrap, remove that as well. Plastic labels on plastic film are okay, though.

Do I need to do anything to plastic bags/wraps before recycling them via Store Drop-off?

Ensure all plastic bags, wraps and films are clean & dry before recycling. That just means no crumbs, no food residue, and no liquid inside them. But do you need to go the level of rinsing out each and every bag, and air drying them? Nah. Will a single bread crumb destroy the whole batch of recycled film? Nah. But do recyclers want your leftover tortillas still in the bag? No.

What if the Store Drop-off bin appears to be full at the grocery store? Can I still fit my bags and wraps into the receptacle?

Yep! Even if the bin looks jam-packed with plastic bags, the material is really good at shrinking down with a little bit of pressure. Store employees often won't empty out the Store Drop-off bin until it's really condensed down. So don't hesitate, just smoosh those bags into the bin!

If I'm not sure if a certain plastic wrap can go into the Store Drop-off bin, can I try to recycle it there anyways?

Unfortunately, no: when in doubt, leave it out! Some plastic bags, wraps, and films have invisible "ingredients" in them to make the plastic perform a certain way, in order to protect the product. Some of those can contaminate the film recycling stream. So, unless the wrap has a How2Recycle Store Drop-off label on it, or is labeled #2 or #4 polyethylene, throw the plastic film in the garbage. Thankfully, more and more How2Recycle members are using our Not Yet Recycled label to tell you when those wraps, pouches and films should definitely be left out of the recycling bins. You should tell them you appreciate their transparency that's keeping our recycling system healthy!

I have a package that has the #2 or #4 on it and a message or icon suggesting it's recyclable curbside. Can I put it in my curbside recycling bin?

No! Unless if you live in one of the handful of communities in the US that can take plastic films at curbside, you must only take that item to the store for recycling, no matter what the claims on the packaging may suggest. For almost all community curbside recycling programs in the US, plastic films are a contaminant and are ultimately landfilled if you place them in your curbside bin. Some companies aren't as familiar with the Federal Trade Commission Green Guides, that tell companies they must avoid consumer deception in recycling claims, and 'do their homework' about whether their packaging is recyclable (if they're going to claim that it is). Some companies may be unaware that recycling these films curbside causes serious problems and will be landfilled, and that they're being misleading. You should reach out to those brands on social media and urge them to join How2Recycle, so they can make recycling easy for you with the Store Drop-off label!

Kelly Cramer

Kelly Cramer
Senior Manager

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