Recycling

Plastic bags are 100% recyclable.

Lawmakers across the country are considering misguided legislation in an effort to help keep our oceans clean. However, the real solution to protecting our environment from litter is encouraging recycling.

Thousands of American families depend on the jobs provided by the country’s growing, green recycling and manufacturing industry to make ends meet, and the rate of Americans recycling their plastic bags has increased significantly over the past decade. Taxing or eliminating plastic bags could put 30,000 Americans out of work and threaten the livelihoods of their families, even though plastic bags make up a tiny fraction (less than 0.5%) of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream1. Restricting use of plastic bags just doesn’t address the litter issue.

Recycling is a growing industry that is having an impact

  • In 2011, an estimated one billion pounds of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were recycled. The same report showed that plastic bag and film recovery has increased by 55% since 20052
  • Consumers can bring their plastic bags, sacks and wraps to participating stores and drop them into plastic bag recycling bins. From there, the bags and wraps are picked up for recycling
  • According to the EPA, the recycling rate of polyethylene bags, sacks and wraps in 2010 was 14.7%, a 23.8% increase from the rate in 2009. Recycling of polyethylene bags, sacks and wraps has now grown in nine out of the last 10 years3

Recycling supports thousands of Americans in a growing, green industry

  • More than 30,000 Americans in 349 plants are supported by the country’s recycling and manufacturing industry4
  • At a time of prolonged unemployment, American plastic bag manufacturers continue to create jobs with benefits and invest in green technologies that revolutionize the plastic recycling industry
  • Recycled plastic bags are used to make new plastic bags and building products such as backyard decks, playground equipment and fences
  • As a result of recycling innovation and investment, the United States is the world leader in plastic bag and film recycling. Any tax or ban would endanger this quickly growing green industry and threaten jobs

Download our fact sheet about how promoting recycling efforts is a more environmentally and economically sensible solution than a ban or tax.

  1. Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2009 Facts and Figures; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; p. 53
  2. http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Education-Resources/Publications/2011-National-Post-Consumer-Recycled-Plastic-Bag-and-Film-Report.pdf
  3. http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw_2010_data_tables.pdf and http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2009rpt.pdf
  4. http://www.plasticsindustry.org/APBA/

Act Now!

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Learn the Facts

  • Plastic bags are recycled into building materials such as backyard decking, fencing and playground equipment. More »
  • Plastic bags make up a tiny fraction (less than 0.5 percent) of the municipal solid waste stream. More »
  • Plastic bags have a lower carbon footprint than paper and reusable bags. More »