What Do I Do With THAT?? Plastic Bags
Working in a spring garden.

Plastic bags have been used in supermarkets since the 1970’s and longer in other industries. About 160,000 plastic bags are used around the world every second. That’s five trillion a year!! Yet they take anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to degrade. That means not one bag that has ever been produced has degraded yet!

Did you know the first plastic bags were never intended to be single use, but were to be reusable, negating the need to cut down trees for paper bags? But as the bags got thinner and cheaper, it became clear they were not strong enough to be used over and over. In today’s world, the average plastic grocery bag will be used for 12 minutes and then discarded.

You should chose reusable bags instead of single use plastic bags for you groceries and other things

So What Should a Resident of Howard County do with Plastic Grocery Bags?

The ideal answer is not to use them in the first place! Many states are banning the use of plastic bags, and a lot of businesses are phasing out their use, with the promise of no free plastic bags in the near future. But if you live in an area that still uses them, consider bringing your own reusable shopping bags instead. Most stores sell these bags for a nominal fee, and if you spread that fee out over the life of the bag, most people find they are very affordable. You can also make reusable bags out of old t-shirts or other items. The biggest challenge is getting into the habit of keeping bags in your car for unexpected trips to the grocery. If you do forget your reusable bags, most stores also carry paper bags, so be sure to ask them if that is an option. And if you HAVE to use plastic bags, recycle them!

YES!! Plastic Bags are Recyclable!

Howard County residents CAN recycle plastic bags, and not just grocery bags, but clean resealable bags, bread bags, and many other bags. But they CAN’T be recycled in your curbside recycling in Greentown or Kokomo, and they shouldn’t be placed in the bins located around the county. This is because they cannot go through standard recycling equipment without clogging them. Specialized equipment is required to process plastic bags and plastic films.

Single use plastic bags become tangled in standardized recycling machines. These bags should be recycled by taking them back to the store and placing them in a collection bin there.

Recycling the Right Way!

Most large grocery stores and big box stores have a contract with the bag manufactures who have specialized equipment for recycling bags. In Howard County Target, Meijer, Walmart, and Kroger all have receptacles located in the lobby of their stores for you to return plastic bags. Kohl’s also has two receptacles for recycling bags, but you will find them in the customer service area toward the back of the store.

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