Plastic Bag Recycling

February 12, 2014 - "Industry Insight"

While it can still be challenging, recycling plastic bags and film is now easier to do than ever before. Many cities are collecting more and more types of materials, but not all communities recycle all types of plastic.  We recommend checking with your local recycling programs and departments to find out what types of plastic they accept before dropping off your items.

Many communities accept and recycle #2 and #4 plastics. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) bags and plastic are labeled as type #2 plastic. Most plastic grocery bags, t-shirt bags, and air cushions or pillows are made of HDPE. 

Low Density (LDPE) and Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) are labeled as type #4 plastics. Thicker newspaper bags and bread bags are examples of LDPE. LLDPE bags are typically clear, thin bags, such as economy newspaper or dry cleaning bags. 

Some recycling programs can also accept Medium Density Polyethylene (MDPE).  MDPE is a modified version of LDPE and it is often marked as type #4. This type of plastic film is often used as product packaging for toilet paper and paper towels.

Many local department and grocery stores can now accept and collect used plastic bags for recycling.  Look for specially marked plastic bag recycling bins near store entrances and customer service counters. Bags with added features such as zippers, drawstrings, rigid handles, etc. are only recyclable when the handles, zippers, drawstrings, and other additions have been removed. It’s also important to know that bags should not have had direct contact with food or other organic matter. The bags you turn in should be completely empty, clean and dry, as even small amounts of contaminants can ruin the recycling process.

When in doubt, contact your local recycling center for their plastic bag recycling guidelines or for more information about recycling plastic bags and film, please visit


Scott E. Pietila

Executive Vice President

Associated Bag Company


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