Why can't I recycle plastic bags in my recycling bin?

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Municipalities and waste management vendors have improved overall recycling.

In many places, we can easily recycle glass, aluminum, hard plastic, and paper. In some jurisdictions we can even “recycle” our food waste with composting programs. Shout out!

So why can’t we easily recycle plastic bags?

Short answer – single-stream recycling.

Waste haulers found that single-stream recycling – the typically all-in-one blue bin we mix our recyclables in – was much more cost-effective for them and user friendly for households.  To process single-stream recyclables, they need specialized equipment to sort the different materials...think of cans or bottles on a conveyor belt with sensors, magnets and other technologies to send our refuse to the correct program.

Unfortunately, plastics bags get caught in this sorting equipment and cause delays and slower recycling. As we see in the graphic from Waste Management above, plastic bags are the “odd bag out”.