Recycling Tips: What To Do With All Those Plastic Grocery Bags

Recycling Tips: What To Do With All Those Plastic Grocery Bags

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of stories written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland and Kane County Environmental & Water Resources Intern Claire Eaton, a sophomore at University of Illinois Springfield. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

You know that plastic bag full of plastic bags? I’m sure we all have one stored under our sink or in a drawer in the kitchen. Grocery shopping is a necessity, but what about the bags our groceries are given to us in?

Plastic bags full of … plastic bags.

Plastic bags are NOT recyclable in your curbside carts!

Most people do not know that plastic bags — both empty and full of other bags or full of recyclable materials — are the No.1  problem at recycling sorting facilities. They end up wrapped around the sorting equipment, causing the plant to shut down up to two times a day to manually cut the bags from our of the sorting machines.

Recyclable materials should always be dumped loose into the curbside cart. General recycling guidelines can be found here.

Not only do they hinder the recycling process in regular stream recycling, in a landfill they will sit for hundreds of years. Avoid them if you can!

Plastic bags ARE recyclable if you return them to the retailer.

Working in a grocery store as a teenager really opened my (Claire’s) eyes to the amount of plastic bags given out each day, and how few are returned.

That plastic bag will often be rendered useless within a few hours, doomed to sit beneath your sink for a few months. Or the bags may travel to places they don’t belong, such as the ocean or other waterways.

They commonly end up being a nuisance, so why not switch to something that can be used over and over again?

Think Reusable

Enter the reusable shopping bag.

When people bring in their own bags, it’s easier on everyone involved. They are much sturdier than the plastic bags, can fit more in them, and often times make it easier for the person bagging your groceries.

When picking a reusable bag, consider the footprint made to make the bag.

A sustainably sourced, washable, cotton tote will last ages and give you peace of mind that it was made ethically. Sites such as Eco bags and Simple Ecology sell these kinds of bags.

State of Illinois Considers Fee on Plastic Bags

There is growing financial incentive to switch to these reusable bags as the Illinois Senate floats the idea of a fee on plastic bags.

The fee is proposed to help reduce plastic bag use as well as secure funding for environmental programs, and at around 7 cents per plastic bag, the fees paid in one year could easily add up to the cost of a few reusable bags.

So why not switch to sustainable reusable bags to reduce your waste, save money, and stop hoarding plastic bags under the sink?

Recycling Extravaganza Coming July 13!

Just a reminder that Kane County’s annual Recycling Extravaganza is set for July 13 at the Branch Court Office on Randall Road in St. Charles.

This is the big kahuna of recycling events, and this year’s event includes a number of new items, including scrap metal.

Click this link to read more!

Read More