How to Recycle Ziploc Bags
“Ziploc bags, aka sandwich bags or resealable plastic bags, are starting to be accepted at more recycling facilities across the nation.
The average American family uses 500 Ziploc bags every year. If all those bags are thrown away, that quickly adds up to a massive amount of plastic going into local landfills and incinerators. The good news is that Ziploc bags are recyclable. Even better: In most communities, recycling locations are more plentiful than you might think. That means the most challenging part of recycling Ziploc bags may be getting your kids to remember to bring their empty sack lunches back home with them.
What are Ziploc bags?
Ziploc is a brand name for plastic storage bags and many other products made by SC Johnson. The term “Ziploc bag” has become a generic way of referring to any self-sealing bag that is used to store food or other items. Other common names for this product include sandwich bags, snack bags, resealable plastic bags and food storage bags. Ziploc bags have several different kinds of closures.
There is the classic “zip” version, where you press together two interlocking pieces of plastic. Newer bags may have a small tab that runs across the top of the bag to seal it closed. Those who freeze meat, fish or produce may opt for vacuum-sealed bags, which create an airtight seal and keep food extra fresh during its long, cold storage period. Ziploc bags (and other sandwich bags) are made with a product known as “film” in the recycling industry. Film is clear, thin plastic made of either low-density polyethylene (or LDPE, which corresponds to the recycling #4) or high-density polyethylene (or HDPE, which corresponds to the recycling #2).
Most film is recycled into composite lumber, a highly durable building material that is used for decks, benches and playground equipment. The hardest thing about recycling film is keeping it in your recycling bin. Since the plastic is so lightweight it becomes airborne easily. When it flies out of trashcans and recycling bins it creates litter in neighborhoods and transfer stations — and usually ends up in the nearest dumpster.
Loose Ziploc bags and other types of film plastic often get caught in recycling machinery, damaging equipment and causing downtime at recycling centers. That is why it is very important to carefully follow your community’s guidelines for recycling film.
How to recycle Ziploc bags
Ziploc-brand bags and other sandwich bags can be recycled with other types of film plastic, including shopping bags, dry-cleaning bags and produce bags. The best place to find recycling centers for these products is your local grocery store. Many retailers offer bins right inside the door that collect film.
A growing number of communities do accept film plastic at the curb, although the number is honestly still pretty small. For example, San Antonio, TX, recently added plastic bag collection to its curbside program. The program requests that residents remove the “zip” portion before placing the bag in the bin. Also, all the plastic bags need to be stuffed into one bag to ensure the individual pieces stay put. The full bag should be about the size of a soccer ball. Some cities and counties accept film plastic at their local recycling centers. Examples include Menomonie, WI, and Brielle, NJ. Check with your local solid waste district to see if it has a plastic bag collection center. Regardless of where you take your Ziploc or other plastic bags for recycling, make sure each is clean and dry before you drop them off. That includes removing any paper or food particles that may be inside.
How to reuse Ziploc bags
If you use a lot of Ziploc bags, the cost can definitely add up. Plastic bags can be used over and over again if cared for properly. Wash bags with soap and water and set them out to dry. I would not recommend reusing bags that contained raw meat, greasy items or moldy foods. If you plan on washing plastic bags a lot it is worth investing in a bag dryer. This simple but brilliant contraption sits on the counter and extends multiple arms that hold plastic bags open so they can drain and dry. You can find plastic bag dryers online at retailers like Amazon. You can also make one yourself from chopsticks or old plastic clothes hangers.
If you do not feel comfortable reusing Ziploc bags for food, stash household items such as toys, pens and pencils, craft supplies or travel-sized toiletries in them. That reusable zipper is handy for keeping more than food in one place. ”
By Sophia Bennett – Recyclenation
October 7, 2014
Zip Lock Plastic Bags: A Tragic Case of Recycling Inconvenience
Author: Recygal – Recycling Bin
Published: February 18, 2010
“Just Zip It. Zipper-type plastic storage bags have hundreds of uses and are fast becoming the quintessential storage solution for households and businesses. Foods, electronic parts, garden soils, and even crime scene evidence end up packaged in these convenient, storage bags. Although millions of these bags are used daily, recycling used zipper-type plastic bags is not so easy.
Because municipal recycling infrastructure has evolved around the collection of plastic bottles, most cities and towns only accept PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastics for curbside collection. Most plastic
storage bags are made from LDPE (#4) and even sometimes from PP (#5). While municipal recycling centers can accommodate the reclamation of bin liners used to transport curbside plastics, most downstream separation processes (used after collection bag contents are emptied) are not designed to handle the separation of plastic bags, films, and wraps. Without the convenience of curbside pickup, the final resting place of many (if not most) of our zipper-type storage bags is the dreaded landfill.
With the zipper-type or “slider” bag the consumer-preferred choice for plastic bags, the use of these bags is growing. Once a product offered only under the best brand-names, this convenient, sealable storage solution is now a mainstay item of private label brands too. So, what can we do to keep these bags out of our landfills?
The answer rests with the story behind the recycling of retail plastic shopping bags. With many city and state governments enacting laws that demand retailers to offer recycling services for plastic shopping bags which are made from HDPE #2, the door is opening for households to have convenient recycling drop-off locations for all plastic bags. According to the American Chemistry Association, wherever plastic shopping bags (HDPE #2) are collected for recycling, cleaned, sealable food storage bags (if the hard components are removed), bread bags, dry cleaning bags, and even plastic wraps can be recycled too. The same infrastructure set up to handle HDPE #2 bags handles LDPE #4 bags (as long as any zippers are removed).
Why the zippers cannot be recycled remains a mystery; most zippers are made of LDPE (#4) plastic. Because the zippers may contain colorants and proprietary sealants, perhaps they are considered contaminants. However, the LDPE recycling industry is adept at stripping dyes and other impurities from LDPE plastic. So, who knows? Does anyone have an answer for this? I surmise it may be because HDPE zippers are not collected in large enough quantities to make recycling economically feasible.
If you are going to use zipper- type plastic storage bags more commonly known as, “Ziploc” bags, please remember to cut off the zippers before you recycle them. Try and collect your zipper-less used bags in bulk (preferably in a used plastic shopping bag) so you can conveniently drop “the bag of bags” into your retailer’s recycling station. To be even more environmentally conscious, try and use non-zippered bags when possible. You’ll be helping to keep LDPE plastic out of our landfills. If you need to have a sealed pouch bag, plastic bag heat sealers eliminate the need for zippers and are available at most big box stores. For real eco-purists, you can always find storage solutions that are non-plastic. Glass storage containers keep food. Post consumer recycled cardboard boxes store non-perishable items. A New Zealand company, Kizan Ltd., even offers a reusable plastic bag sealer, the “Magic Lock Reusable Bag Sealer”.