Please note that plastic bags are NOT accepted in the curbside recycling service. The only recycling materials to be bagged are shredded documents, which should be tied in clear plastic bags.
The first level of sorting at recycling stations is done by hand. Workers at the recycling center are sorting through tons of materials and simply do not have time to open bags to find out what's inside. Your plastic bags could very well be filled with recyclable material like glass or plastic bottles or aluminum cans. Or, they could be full of contaminants like food scraps, yards waste or styrofoam. Even worse, they could be full of dirty or dangerous material like diapers or medical sharps.
Since it's too dangerous and time-consuming to open the bags, they have to be removed from the recycling stream and thrown into the trash. That means valuable resources will not be reclaimed. Instead, they will be entered into the landfill.
The next issue with plastic bags is that they interfere with automatic sorting machines. Conveyor belts feed the recycling materials into rotating tunnels, onto spinning wheels and past magnets that separate the plastic, glass, paper, aluminum and steel cans. Plastic bags cannot be sorted from other materials by existing machinery. Instead, they get caught in the conveyor belts and jam spinning wheels, and can bring the entire sorting line to a halt. The bags then need to be located and removed by hand - a time-consuming and often dangerous process that reduces the overall efficiency of the materials and recovery facility (MRF).
There are easy ways you can help!The next time you put out your recycling, remember the problems that plastic bags can create and make sure you keep them out of the cart. Better yet, if you see a family member, friend or neighbor placing plastic bags in their curbside recycling cart, tell them why they shouldn't. You can recycle your plastic bags by taking them back to a grocery store or re-use them for trash liners!