Plastic bags should never be placed in your curbside recycling collection in Northwest Indiana. However, plastic bags can be brought to many convenient locations around the area where they will ultimately get recycled.
Visit the website, www.plasticfilmrecycling.org, enter your zip code, and discover a number of places locally where you can take your plastic bags and other film products to be recycled. These products include newspaper, bread and produce bags; furniture wrap; plastic cereal liners; and more.
All of your curbside recyclables, like plastic containers, glass bottles, metal cans, juice cartons, etc., travel to Illinois to places called material recovery facilities or MRFs (pronounced murfs), where they are sorted, baled or bundled, and sold to companies as raw material to make other products.
Plastic bags mixed in with curbside recyclables can wrap around and jam sorting equipment, causing processing down time and maintenance, which can lead to increased recycling fees for municipalities, waste haulers and ultimately residents!
Plastic bags mixed with recyclables can also lead to “contamination,” which means many perfectly recyclable materials may end up going to a landfill simply because there are too many plastic bags to sort through to obtain them.
Here are a few alarming facts about plastic bags:
- The average American family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year (Natural Resources Defense Council).
- Americans use and throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture. (The Wall Street Journal).
- A single plastic bag can take up 500 years or more to degrade (Measuring biodegradability, ScienceLearn.org).
- According to data from the Ocean Conservancy's annual International Coastal Cleanups, plastic bags are consistently in the top 10 pieces of trash collected on beaches around the world.
- The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bags leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years. According to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, these plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals (fish, sea turtles, etc.), every year when animals mistake them for food.
- When plastics break down, they don't biodegrade; they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. They then contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion (Earth911).
- 10% of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade (United Nations).
The best way to deal with plastic bags is simply to avoid getting them in the first place. Remember the slogan: “Rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle!”
RETHINK your habits and create new ones. Why do you have plastic bags? You have plastic bags because stores give them away when you make purchases. Next time you go shopping, whether it’s grocery or retail, bring your own reusable bags to REDUCE your consumption of these single use plastic bags. If we all REDUCE our need for them, we will also REDUCE the demand for companies to manufacture them.
You may also find that many stores give small discounts for bringing your own reusable bags; a BONUS!