Recycling Tips: DO NOT Put Plastic Bags in Your Recycling Bin!

Recycling Tips: DO NOT Put Plastic Bags in Your Recycling Bin!

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of recycling tips from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. This particular tip is recycled from an article that originally post Sept. 21, 2015. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

Hey, Jennifer Jarland! Can I Put My Recycling in Plastic Bags and Then Put It in The Curbside Cart?

The answer to this one is NO! Do not put your recyclable materials in plastic bags inside of the recycling bin.

Please empty all recyclable items — loose — into the collection bin. I’ve also heard that some people think they can put bags of plastic bags in the bin for recycling. But plastic bags cannot be placed in your recycling bin, period. I’ll explain why in this article.

But first things first: What should you do with plastic bags? To begin with, I recommend avoiding them completely by taking your own reusable bags to the store. Or you can reuse the plastic bags — as trash liners or pet-poo picker-uppers! Otherwise recycle them through a plastic bag recycling program!

How to Recycle Plastic Bags

Recycle Binand Signage_HiRes_webClean, dry, and empty plastic bags and plastic film are recyclable, but only at grocery store drop-boxes, and not in your blue curbside bins. Check your local grocery store for a drop-box and verify acceptable materials.

And visit for more information.

DO Recycle Plastic Bags at the Grocery Store:

  • Grocery bags
  • Newspaper Bags
  • Produce Bags
  • Bread Bags labeled with a #2 or #4
  • Retail bags (hard plastic and string handles removed)
  • Cereal Box Liners
  • Paper towel, napkin, and toilet paper plastic wrap
  • Case wrap (around cases of bottled water, drinks, or snacks)
  • Plastic dry cleaning bags
  • Plastic shipping envelopes
  • Ziploc bags (clean, dry, empty bags only & cut the zip strip off)
  • All clean, dry, empty plastic bags labeled with a #2 or #4
  • Plastic film wrap (found around electronics or shipping pallets)

Do NOT Recycle:

The following are considered contaminants and could jeopardize recycling programs.

  • NO labels
  • NO receipts, deli stickers, or cling wrap
  • NO frozen food bags
  • NO other bags or films
  • NO cellophane 

Why Can’t I Put Them in the Recycling Bin?

Plastic bags are the No. 1 contaminant at the sorting facilities.

Plastic and cloth being cut from recycling station machine.

If plastic bags are placed in the recycling, it is bad for a couple of reasons. First, they cause problems during the sorting process and they customarily end up in a landfill. If recyclable containers and paper are tied up in plastic bags it causes a hold up at the sorting facility, because as it is traveling down the conveyor belt, the workers have to tear it open, tip the items out, and throw the plastic bag in the trash chute.

If plastic bags get past the human sorters and go through the sorting equipment, they cause mechanical issues, clogging the sorting screens and getting wrapped around the equipment. When they cut them out manually at the end of each day, they are not recycled because they are dirty, so they go in the trash and eventually land at a landfill.

So please keep them out of the blue bin by avoiding them, or reusing them or recycling them through the proper programs. We definitely want to keep them out of the landfills, trees, and waterways! See this entertaining but truthful mockumentary on what happens to the “Majestic Plastic Bag” set free in the ecosystem.

Thanks for all that you do to Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

More Kane County recycling information can be found at the Kane County Recycles website and more about plastic bags recycling on this page.

Questions? Contact Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland at 630-208-3841 or