Are Plastic Bags Recyclable?

Plastic bags do not go in your household recycling or trash. Here is what to do instead!

February 29, 2024

You may not have thought about it lately, but you may be reminded now and again at your local grocery store during check-out – why am I paying for a brown paper carryout bag?

Gone are the days in New York State of using single-use plastic bags for your food and sundries. Before they were banned in 2020, 23 billion plastic bags were used yearly in New York State! Imagine the times you may have seen one stuck in a tree, on the banks of a waterway, or twirling loosely in the wind.

Can You Recycle Plastic Bags?

The short version: plastic bags do not go in your household recycling or trash.

Improper disposal of single-use plastic bags may lead to environmental harm and interrupt a community’s recycling process. Regardless of the ban, however, you may occasionally be handed a plastic bag with your next takeout order or trip to the store. Do you know how to dispose of it correctly?

Where To Recycle Plastic Bags

For immediate insight, visit Rockland Green’s “What Goes Where?” to find out how to get rid of plastic bags according to the area you live in. This also opens up a larger discussion on how to dispose of other plastic bags, wraps, and materials.

According to the state’s Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Law, some retail stores and grocery stores must make film plastic collection bins available to consumers for recycling their film plastics, such as grocery bags. Other acceptable plastics for this include:

  • Zip-top food storage bags
  • Bubble wrap
  • Newspaper bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Garment bags
  • Retail bags without string ties
  • Produce bags

These items will only be accepted if they are clean of residue and dry.

Items that do not belong in these collection bins include:

  • Bottles
  • Six-pack rings
  • Food containers
  • Pet food bags
  • Candy wrappers
  • Frozen food bags

What Can You Use Instead of Single-Use Bags?

Try a reusable bag! Your favorite store may be selling them in branded, decorative designs, and – apart from looks – these bags may prove more durable in carrying your groceries and items. Why pay five cents for a paper bag every time you visit the store when it may rip before you reach your door?

Also, if you use a plastic bag to organize your recyclables for curbside pickup, pour the items into your curbside bin and dispose of the plastic bag per the instructions outlined above (or reuse it!). If you toss the whole bag in, the bin will not be picked up. Instead, you may receive a Rockland Green “Oops!” sticker as a friendly reminder of what goes in each bin. Our team is working hard to prevent plastic bags from entering our Materials Recovery Facility and clogging the machines, which can delay and stop recycling operations for the county.

The ban on single-use plastic bags is relatively recent and may take time to get used to, but we can make a difference and help Rockland County, individually and together.

Rockland Green is always looking for ways to inform our neighbors on the best and easiest ways to help clean up our community. For a deeper dive into how to recycle plastic bags and dispose of other items, follow us and subscribe to our email list for more tips and resources!