In many communities (including our own Cocke County) only plastics stamped as R.I.C.(Resin Identification Code) #1 and #2 are being recycled: resin codes 3-7 are sent to the landfill. It has been estimated that 85% of the plastics produced are R.I.C. #1 or R.I.C. #2, so the lions-share of plastics in circulation are recyclable even in communities that still don’t use Single Stream Recycling. This percentage has gotten a major boost recently because single-use plastic shopping bags, which used to be made of L.D.P.E. (R.I.C. #4), are now available in H.D.P.E. (RIC #2) plastic. Therefore, shopping bags are now fully recyclable in almost all communities.
Recycling Plastic Shopping Bags
Before this change, stores that distribute these shopping bags often had bins in which to deposit clean, used bags but the main use of these as in manufacturing plastic lumber and fencing. But the H.D.P.E. plastic is more versatile and stronger than L.D.P.E. so now old bags can be used in making new bags.
The local Food City store recently started using shopping bags that are stamped as #2 recyclable to help heighten awareness of this recycling opportunity. Bags from the local WalMart also bear the #2 emblem and include a notice of using post-consumer plastics in their new bags.
Wherever you shop, if the store provides single-use plastic bags, check to see if they are stamped with the #2 R.I.C. emblem. If not identified, ask. If that store is still using L.D.P.E. bags, suggest that they change to the more environmentally friendly H.D.P.E. bags.
None of this will help if you’re tossing the used bags in the trash. Take them back to a store that has a collection bin. This is common in grocery stores, WalMart, and Lowe’s. As long as the bags are the same R.I.C. number, the name on the bag doesn’t matter: #2 bags from WalMart can be dropped off at Food City and vice-versa. Just don’t mix the L.D.P.E. (#4) bags in with the #2 bags.
Alternatively, you may put these #2 bags in with the #2 plastics (like milk jugs) in your recycling containers.
Of course, the BEST solution is to take along your own reusable shopping bags. But if you are not on board with that yet, or are forgetful, or don’t have enough to carry your purchases, bear in mind that these disposable bags are now much more recyclable.