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Can You Put Recycling in a Garbage Bag? (And 3 Other Options)

Can You Put Recycling in a Garbage Bag? (And 3 Other Options)
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With all of the controversy regarding the ongoing damage to the environment that is bombarding us on the news, you may be tempted to pat yourself on the back for your contributions. Recycling is definitely a great step to take towards doing your part to reduce your footprint on the earth. 

There are many different rules regarding what to recycle and how. If you have curbside pickup for your recycling (we just got this about 9 months ago!), you don’t have to worry about bringing your recycling to a separate location.

That definitely makes things easier, but you still run into the whats and hows. Your local trash or recycling company most likely has a list of items you can recycle, but a question that may be on your mind is: Can I put my recycling in a garbage bag?

Basically, no. And I’ll tell you why.

Should I Put my Recycling in a Garbage Bag?

You might be tempted to bag up those emptied and cleaned recycled items and make it all nice and tidy for the recycle person to pick up, especially if you have an open-top bin for your recyclables. Try not to do this, though.

Having a garbage bag in your recycling container is a bad idea for many reasons.

1 – Most recycling companies do not recycle plastic bags.

There are very specific places that do recycle certain types of bags, including many of your local grocery stores (Meijer stores in the midwest do this!). 

2 – Loose plastic bags can get caught up in the sorting machinery.

If a loose plastic bag gets past the recycle person, it could get sucked up into the machinery at the sorting facility. This could cause damage to the machinery and require additional personnel to fix it.

3 – Workers may have to open bags to remove recyclables.

In order to avoid the second reason, workers may have to remove plastic bags from the recycled items. This could mean that they have to spend additional time opening the bags and removing the items.

4 – Workers may mistake bags for garbage.

Lastly, your recycling efforts may go to complete waste. A worker could see a bag of recycled items in a garbage bag and mistake it for a bag of actual garbage.

All the time you spent emptying and cleaning your recyclables is dumped in the garbage in a simple misunderstanding.

What Can I Use Other Than Garbage Bags for My Recycling?

The best and easiest solution is to leave the recycling loose in the bin. This may be a bit easier for those of you that have the rolling cans with the lids on top. Just throw all of those recyclables in the bin with one another and make sure you can close the lid.

But what if you don’t have a lid? How can you make sure your recycling stays in the bin?

1 – Depending on your location, you may be able to use other recyclable plastic bags.

Some companies allow the use of specific bags to recycle (such as clear bags in New York City and, previously, blue bags in Chicago). These bags are designed to be recycled right along with the other recycling.

2 – Paper bags.

Paper bags are always a good option for putting your recycling in. These are recycled with the other papers, so there is no issue when using them to corral your items.

3 – Simply make sure you don’t overflow your bin.

If you don’t have either of these options available, then you can just take care to make sure your bin is not overflowing. You may also be able to ask your company for a replacement can with a lid.

Garbage Bags and Recycling

Overall, avoiding the use of garbage bags is really in the best interest of everyone involved. They tend not to get recycled at the facility you send the rest of your recyclables to, and all of the problems caused if they make it through to the workers or the sorting machines are best avoided.

You definitely deserve that pat on the back for recycling in the first place. Keep up the good work!