You’ve invested in ‘bags for life’ or canvas shopping totes. You buy your vegetables loose or in paper bags. And you do everything you can to avoid ending up with unwanted plastic bags, film and wrapping by using new innovations such as beeswax wraps instead of cling film. In short, you probably already do everything you can to avoid ending up with pesky plastic bags and wrapping on your hands. But...
Even the most diligent amongst us, with the best will in the world, can still end up with plastic bags and wrapping that we have no use for and that need to be appropriately disposed of. Perhaps that ‘bag for life’ has started to disintegrate so it’s no longer usable, or you’ve ended up with a load of plastic film you hadn’t expected, such as the plastic film on the top of a tray of berries, or a crisp packet, or an online order wrapped in plastic cellophane.
Either way, the chances are that you will not be able to recycle these materials with your regular kerbside recycling – only around 18% of local authorities accept them at the moment, although this should improve in the future as we work closely with governments.
So what should you do with them in the meantime?
You CAN recycle them!
That’s the clear and simple takeaway from this post – plastic bags and wrapping can be recycled, so they don’t need to end up in the rubbish bin! In the future, we’re hoping to see more and more councils accepting these materials in their kerbside collections; you can see whether yours already does by popping your postcode into the box on our Recycling Locator.
If you are not one of the lucky ones, then, for the time being, your local participating supermarket is the place to go. Many larger branches now have collection points for plastic bags and wrapping recycling at the front of their stores, so check our Recycling Locator to find your nearest one.
What kind of bags and wrapping can be recycled?
You’d be surprised by just how many forms of bags and wrapping are accepted at these collection points. If it’s soft, flexible and/or film, it’s worth checking whether they’ll take it. Materials you may be able to recycle at your local supermarket include:
Chocolate and sweet wrappers
Fish and meat wrapping
Loo roll wrap and other multipack wrapping
Netting from fruit and veg packaging – remember to remove any metal clips
Supermarket shopping bags
Ready meal and punnet film lids
Delivery and dry-cleaning bags
Frozen food bags
Pasta, rice and salad bags
Baby food pouches
The liners from breakfast cereals
Magazine and newspaper wrapping
As with all your recycling, it’s important to make sure that the materials you take to the collection point are nice and clean – so remember to rinse off any bits of sauce, juice or other food substances that shouldn’t be there! If there are any sticky labels or strips of tape, peel these off and put them in your normal rubbish bin, as they unfortunately can’t be recycled (yet!).
One thing to note: plastic bag and wrapping collection at supermarkets is still a pretty new idea, so you may find that the packaging still says ‘not recyclable’ on some longer-life products, such as rice. That’s just because the packaging was created before the scheme came into being, so don’t let it deter you!
Why can’t we just get rid of all plastic bags and wrapping?
Reduce, reuse, recycle, as the saying goes – in that order! While recycling plastic is a must, it’s even better to avoid it in the first place, or to reuse it as much as possible before recycling it. For example, if you can keep reusing a plastic carrier bag until it falls apart, that keeps it useful.
The good news is that initiatives like the UK Plastics Pact exist to work on getting rid of unnecessary plastic packaging for good, and we’re helping advise supermarkets on removing plastic wrapping from fresh uncut fruit and veg without food going to waste.
You can always check where you can recycle things near you by using our Recycling Locator – and remember that it’s always better to reuse bags if you can. Why not pop a couple in the boot of your car or in your bike basket ready for spontaneous shops?