Recycling rules can be confusing… How many of you have stood in front of the all familiar recycling bins debating if what you have qualifies as Compost, Recyclables, or Trash? I did this awkward dance just last week at the airport! I still don’t know if I made the correct choice, but I CAN help explain how to recycle poly mailers.

Yes, they ARE Recyclable

PAC Worldwide produces a large selection of 100% recyclable products including our poly mailers (Polyjacket, Polyjacket-R), poly bubble mailers (Airjacket, Jumbojacket, Xpandojacket, Clearjacket), rigid paperboard mailers (Mailjacket) and many others (Securejacket, Lab Bag, Autojacket, PACjacket film, Bubblerolls, and Folding cartons). When a customer receives their purchase packaged in a mailer, the question is often still asked – Is this recyclable? The answer is, Absolutely! In fact, much of the scrap polyethylene bags and wrap we use on a daily basis are recyclable and is unfortunately still ending up in landfills. Not only do we need to KNOW that they are recyclable, but we need to know HOW to recycle these types of plastic at the end of its useful life.

Why is Recycling Important?

The process of recycling uses far less energy than manufacturing with brand new raw materials. Recycling conserves energy and natural resources, reduces pollution, and helps prevent landfills from filling up. Simply put, recycling protects the environment for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. (www.ziploc.com/sustainability)

Why can’t I put plastic bags in my recycling bin?

The recycling bins most of us have at home and picked up weekly utilize a system called single stream recycling. It’s actually a fairly advanced operation that begins when trucks pick up your recyclable items and take them to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF). This is where the bottles, plastics and metals get sorted in order to be processed and remade into new products. They are loaded onto a conveyer belt and ran through a series of machines designed to separate the varying materials. Paper and cardboard are separated first by a machine with fast, rotating wheels. A large magnet then pulls out some of the metals. The remaining metals are extracted by a machine called an Eddy current rotor. The plastic and glass continue down the line to an optical scanning system which recognizes the plastic and blows it away with a burst of air. The heavier glass moves on down to the end of the line where it falls into bins designated for glass. Plastic bags and wrappers are lightweight and come in numerous shapes and sizes, being prime candidates for getting tangled up in the sorting machines and causing detrimental shutdowns.

Ziploc has put together a wonderful video explaining this process:

Store Drop-offs

Today, there are many recycling centers and retail stores that have made themselves available as a drop-off for these more difficult to recycle plastics. To find a drop-off location for your plastic bags and wraps nearest you, use the zip code locator at plasticfilmrecycling.org. Initiatives such as these and clearer labeling like the How2recycle label are encouraging consumers to get in the habit of taking these plastics back to the store or to a nearby drop-off. In 2011, one billion pounds of plastic bags and film were recycled in the U.S. That’s an increase of 55% from just 6 years previous in 2005. (2011 National Postconsumer Recycling Report)

Those pounds of plastic are recycled into containers, crates, pipe, railroad ties, and new bags and film. PAC actually utilizes this recycled film in our Polyjacket-R. They are 100% recyclable and made from up to 50% recycled content film. The Mailjacket and Folding cartons are also recyclable and made from 100% recycled paper, 95% of which is post-consumer. Very cool!

This recycled plastic may also become durable composite lumber for fences, benches, decks, door and window frames, even playground equipment by companies like TREX. TREX recycles more than 2 billion bags a year at their plant in Winchester, Virginia. That’s 720,000 pounds of material a WEEK. That’s a lot of scrap Polyethelyne film!

Recyclable Plastic Items

Grocery store plastic bag recycling bin
Grocery store plastic bag recycling bin

All clean, dry bags and wraps labeled #2 or #4 are accepted at bins like these found in grocery stores nationwide. Recyclable items include:

  • Plastic shipping envelopes (poly mailers and poly bubble mailers)
  • Ziploc and other re-sealable bags
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Plastic retail bags
  • Newspaper sleeves
  • Ice bags
  • Wood pellet bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Bread & produce bags
  • bubble wrap
  • salt bags
  • cereal bags
  • Case overwrap
  • Toilet paper, napkin and paper towel wraps

Perhaps you can hang a plastic bag in your kitchen somewhere to collect these types of plastic items until you are ready to make another trip to the grocery store. My mom stores hers in the pantry and I keep mine under the sink. Wherever is convenient for you! Never seem to remember to bring the bag of plastics along with you? Try writing down “recycle plastic bags” at the top of every grocery list as a reminder to bring your recyclable plastic bags and wrap with you the next time you go shopping. Remember, we’re all in this on the same planet together – let’s do our part to take care of it!

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