COVID-19 RECYCLING TIPS: BAGS! BAGS! BAGS! ... And How To Deal With Them


  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of recycling and waste-collection tips during the COVID-19 pandemic, written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

There’s a mountain of information to sort through in the course of this pandemic emergency in Kane County, and it’s easy for recycling efforts to get buried.

Here are a few tips on how to handle all the plastic bags we seem to be dealing with these days.

Do not put plastic bags in the recycling bin

As you know (if you read these articles regularly) plastic bags are not acceptable in the recycling carts. Period.

This is clearly stated on the statewide recycling guidelines. All recycling must be emptied loose into the carts, not in bags.

Which brings me to the topic of the “Blue Plastic Recycling Bags” (queue suspenseful music) — DO NOT put them in the recycling!

Local stores and online sources have started selling blue plastic bags, marketed as recycling bags, but they are not really because they are not acceptable in the recycling cart! Please follow above instructions for tipping your recyclables into the cart loose.

Residents can use whatever bags they like in the kitchen, but when you put recyclables in the cart, please tip materials in loose and then reuse or trash the bag.

Recycling Plastic Bags at Grocery Stores

Usually you can recycle clean, dry, and empty plastic bags at grocery stores.

However, some grocery stores are choosing to temporarily suspend their plastic bag and film recycling programs during the time of COVID. But some stores continue to collect them in the front entry areas of the stores. Call ahead to enquire.

Organizers of report that the plastic film buyers are still buying from the retailers. During this COVID-19 pandemic, they ask that you “recycle your plastic bags, wraps, and other film packaging at drop-off locations ONLY WHEN AND WHERE POSSIBLE.”

The website goes on to say that if you are unable to recycle your bags through these programs at this time, best practice is to store your bags/wraps at home until events change. Bags/wraps can be compressed and stored inside another plastic bag.

Reduce plastic waste – Refuse the bag

In my opinion, the best thing you can do is avoid using plastic bags at all. It’s a bit harder at the moment when grocery stores aren’t allowing us to bring reusable bags into the stores, but not impossible.

My co-worker Karen Miller, executive planner with the Kane County Development Department, recently wrote to me with this best practice:

“When I go to the grocery store, instead of taking plastic bags just to throw them away a few minutes later, while checking out, I put my groceries back in the cart without the bags, and then when I get to my car I wipe each item with a Clorox wipe and then put them in my reusable bags.”