I was wondering if you could ascertain whether the people who claim to recycle plastic bags at their location actually do. I’ve heard on many occasions that they throw them in the trash. I take mine to Harris Teeter and see receptacles at Macy’s. If they do recycle them, where do the bags go?
— Robyn Musselwhite
You shouldn’t worry too much about these plastic bags ending up in the landfill. There’s demand from companies that need the material to produce composite lumber, pellets and resins.
A website co-sponsored by the American Chemistry Council — plasticbagrecycling.org — lists 15 companies that recycle plastic bags in North Carolina, including Target, Wal-Mart, Food Lion and Lowes Foods.
The manufacturers use grocery, retail and newspaper bags; bags labeled with No. 2 or No. 4; and the wrapping around paper towels and toilet paper.
They don’t collect food wrapping or other contaminated material.
Trex, a composite lumber manufacturer, collects about 200 million pounds of plastic material each year in the United States, said Dave Heglas, director of material resources. North Carolina is one of five states that collect the most material, he said, with most of that coming from Harris Teeter and Ingles grocery stores.
The stores bale the bags at their distribution centers; Trex picks it up and takes the material to its plant in Winchester, Va.
“We pay them for the plastic, so they are getting a little revenue stream for the plastic they collect,” Heglas said. “By collecting it through the stores, it stays relatively clean and dry.”
He said Trex collects from food distributors and other businesses. The company also worked with Canterbury School in Greensboro to collect bags. Students collected about 92,000 last year, he said.
“There’s multiple ways for us to get the plastic, and we work all avenues,” he said. “Any type of business that’s moving stuff around typically has the stretch film, so we try to work with them to get them to recycle their plastic.”
Greensboro and many other cities don’t collect used plastic bags through their municipal recycling programs because the material can damage the sorting machinery.
— Staff Writer Morgan Josey Glover