Every time the recycling processing equipment halts at the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), workers climb the screens to remove plastic shopping bags. After every shift, R.I. Resource Recovery knows they have to allot an hour to clean out the plastic bags and other wrapped and twisted debris.
“For some reason, plastic shopping bags still make their way into household recycling bins by mistake. The good news is there are special bins just for these materials at most supermarkets, pharmacies and other large retail stores,” said Sarah Kite-Reeves, director of recycling services at RIRR, the MRF’s owner in a statement.
Since September 2005, Rhode Islanders have been able to recycle plastic bags and plastic film at collection bins in stores such as CVS, Walmart, Stop & Shop, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Shaw’s and many more. In fact, all large retailers must collect plastic bags and film for recycling.
“The collection bins come in all colors and they are located in every story entrance,” said Kite-Reeves. “We are visiting stores all throughout Rhode Island that meet the law’s criteria, and the vast majority of stores are in compliance. It’s up to residents to take advantage of the convenience of the program and use it. You can recycle any clean, dry, see-through, and stretchy plastic bags and film at any large grocer, pharmacy or big-box store in Rhode Island. Throw away clingy food wrap. It’s the only exception.”
Officially named “ReStore,” the program was developed by R.I. Resource Recovery in partnership with area grocery stores. It removes the ubiquitous form of plastic from the waste stream and in the process reduces litter and threats to wildlife.
Eligible items include plastic shopping bags, bubble wrap, dry cleaner bags, plastic encasing around paper towels and toilet paper, bread and bagel bags, bags of rice or dried beans, cereal box inserts, newspaper delivery bags and shrink wrap from cases of plastic water bottles purchased in bulk, to name just a few. The item need only fit the clean, dry, see-through and stretchy rule of thumb. Clingy food wrap is a unique type of film and must continue to go into the trash.
“At the MRF, plastic bags and film shred and wrap around equipment, causing expensive shut-downs of the sorting equipment, said Kite-Reeves. “When recycled at stores, it doesn’t become an issue.”
Retailer plastic film collection bins come in a variety of shapes and colors but all will recycle bags, film and wrap.