In this mini-version of the Zero Waste Challenge, columnist Cynthia Albers answers a frequently asked question.
Where have the plastic bag collection bins gone?
Hello Cynthia: I've appreciated reading your "Zero Waste Challenge" in the Sonoma West Times. I used to recycle our plastic bags in a receptacle at Lucky's market. However, they've recently stopped doing that along with our other grocery stores in town. So I wonder if you can tell me where I might be able to recycle these plastic bags because I really don't want to put them I our garbage bin!
Cynthia Albers' response: This is question has been asked more than any other this season. First, stores are not keen to accept post-consumer materials in this time of pandemic. Second, there is little-to-no market for the recycling of filmy plastics. Some stores have offered plastic bag collection bins as a courtesy, but it was often unclear where those bags were taken. Recology, our waste hauler, does not accept plastic bags for recycling because they cannot sell the material, and filmy plastics can clog their conveyor belts. Technically, plastic bags can be recycled, but just because something can be recycled does not mean it will be. The best scenario is to avoid plastic. Ask if your store offers compostable paper bags in the produce department. I bag things like string beans but not larger items like apples and potatoes. And yes, I've had to bring a few new plastic bags home this past month out of necessity. For the time being, save your plastic bags and keep them clean and dry. You may find another use for them, and the missing collection bins may return at a later date. Whole Foods was accepting bags at their customer service desk, but I was told that due to pandemic concerns they've discontinued that service until further notice.
Cynthia Albers is a member of the Sebastopol Zero-Waste Subcommittee. Send comments to email@example.com.