The Bags Don’t Get Binned

By Christine Arcari

The other day I flipped the page on my daily calendar, and the meme staring at me so perfectly captured a feeling I get quite often. The meme read “Global warming isn’t as scary for me as trying to figure out what can go in my recycling bin.” Several times a week when I throw something out, I ask myself whether or not I can put it in my curbside recycling bin. How often do you ask yourself that very same question – what can I put in my recycling bin?

One thing that should not go in the bin is a plastic bag. Plastic bags get caught in recycling equipment, and workers have to spend extra time removing them so they don’t cause the equipment to break. Although different communities collect different materials to recycle, a good rule of thumb is that plastic bags don’t get binned!

Plastic bags can be reused at home for things like lining bathroom wastebaskets, as filler in plant containers, or for cleaning up pet waste. If you can’t use them at home, look for plastic-bag recycling bins near the front of grocery and retail stores, and recycle them there. Some locations also accept plastic wrap and film for recycling, so you can recycle dry cleaning bags as well as plastic wrap packaging from paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, newspaper, and bread bags. Check and see what is accepted at locations near you.

Next time you go to throw something away, get creative and think of ways to reduce waste in the first place! This thought and other small habit changes can help reduce, reuse and recycle more. Try these:

  • Is there no recycling bin nearby? Put that soda can in your bag and bring it home to be recycled.
  • Food containers can be reused for more than leftovers – they’re great for paint colors, supplies for arts and crafts, or your daughter’s rock collection.
  • Think about what you are buying. Is it made from recycled materials? Is there a lot of non-reusable or non-recyclable packaging?
  • When you go shopping, bring a reusable bag, and skip the plastic bag or receipt if you don’t need them at checkout. That way you can reduce what you would have had to recycle later.

Soon you won’t remember the last time you took out the trash. Learn more at EPA’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle site:

About the author: Christine Arcari works on the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery Communications Services Staff.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.