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There’s a reason why you can’t place Ziploc® Bags and other plastic bags in your recycling bin at home. When you put all of your recycling into your household recycling bin, it’s called Single Stream Recycling - and it’s a pretty high-tech operation. Trucks carry your recycling to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where all those plastic bottles and metals get separated so they can be processed and re-made into new products. The items are placed on a conveyor belt, where different materials get separated in different ways.
First, paper and cardboard get separated out by a machine with fast, rotating wheels. Then huge magnets pull out some of the metals. Other metals that a magnet won’t grab, like aluminum, are pulled out by a machine called an “Eddy Current Rotor.” Plastic and glass move on down the line to an Optical Scanning System, which recognizes the plastics and blows them away with a blast of air. The heavier glass moves on to the end of the line where it falls into its own glass bins.
Since plastic bags (like Ziploc® Bags) and wrappers are lightweight and flexible and come in a lot of different sizes and shapes, they can get tangled up in the machines that sort all the other recyclables and force the whole line to shut down. That’s why certain locations, like recycling centers and retail stores, have made themselves available as drop-offs for these unique recyclables. Here’s a list of items you can recycle at these locations:
So even though you can’t place Ziploc® Bags in your recycling bin at home, it’s still easy to recycle them. Just visit a store or recycling center that offers a plastic bag recycling program and place your used Ziploc® Bags (clean and dry) in the same bins as those plastic shopping bags.