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Can you recycle plastic bags?

Whether you reuse them on the weekly shop or find somewhere to recycle plastic bags locally, plastic bag recycling is important. Click to learn more.


plastic bag on yellow background

Key Steps

  1. Check online to find out where to recycle plastic bags. Your local council may provide a collection service, and some large supermarkets also have recycling banks.
  2. Many retailers now use biodegradable and degradable plastic banks. In any case, reusable bags are always preferable.
  3. Reuse plastic bags at home in creative ways. Bags tied over hands can be a useful substitute when you need to apply paint, nail polish, or use many other non-corrosive substances.

The UK uses 6 billion plastic bags in a year – equivalent to the weight of approximately 300 million blue whales – and 8 million of those bags end up in the ocean.

Plastic bag recycling can be confusing, especially now that they cost us 5p a time. As we try to use more reusable bags and leave plastic bags behind, we want to know that our spare bags are being disposed of safely and in a way that benefits the planet. But do you know how to recycle plastic bags? And, what are the benefits?

Most things we throw away can actually be recycled, it’s just that our local waste disposal doesn’t offer the service. Saving up recycling in different containers or bags can be a fun project to teach kids eco-friendly values, alongside researching and making the trip to the nearest suitable recycling centre.

Can Plastic Bags Be Recycled Publicly?

Ask your local council where to recycle plastic bags, if they don’t already provide a collection service as part of your local recycling program. Generally speaking, you can find plastic bag recycling facilities at most large supermarkets.

Plastic bags use 70% less plastic than they did a decade ago, but they’re still made from polyethylene, which is manufactured using non-renewable oil. Giving spare bags to a recycling point will ensure that those resources aren’t wasted in landfill.


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Are Plastic Bags Recyclable if They’re Degradable?

There are also a variety of degradable and biodegradable bags available from many retailers. Some are able to be broken down by bacteria, while some break down in prolonged exposure to sunlight or moisture.

These bags may not take centuries to degrade in a landfill, but they still need non-renewable resources to manufacture, so reusable bags will always be preferable.

How Can You Recycle Plastic Bags at Home?

If you want to make the most of old bags lying around the home, follow these tips:

  • Use them instead of small bin liners. Instead of buying more plastic bags specially to put into landfill, try using your spare carrier bags instead.
  • Use them as wall insulation. If you’re doing a bit of DIY and need to plug a hole in the cavity wall before applying filler, use plastic bags tightly wadded up to fill the space.
  • Protect your car wing mirrors. If you’re expecting a snow storm or frost, you can save five minutes before work by tying a pair of plastic bags over your wing mirrors the night before – just pull them off in the morning and skip the need to scrape.
  • Similarly, use a plastic bag to keep your bike seat dry. Keeping one in the bottom of your bag when you cycle to work might save you a soggy bottom on the way home.
  • Use plastic bags in a pinch when you’re out of rubber gloves. Bags tied over hands can be used to apply polish, paint, and many other non-corrosive materials. They’re just as useful for lining surfaces during messy art projects with little ones.

With these tips, and a little conservation effort on your part, you can reduce your reliance on plastic bags and help recycle resources rather than leaving them in landfill. Don’t forget to reuse your plastic bags by taking them on the weekly shop with you either – it’s a great way to do your bit for the planet and save you from shelling out 5p on each new bag you need. If you want to know more about plastic recycling, check this article!

Originally published