Thank you for your interest in Lou’s Upcycles! You may have arrived because you are interested in contributing to the plastic bag mission whether by submitting your bags for upcycling, purchasing a Lou’s Upcycles product, inquiring about a workshop, or by learning more about Lou or other resources. Thank you for getting involved!
UPCYCLING UPDATE: Lou is currently not accepting any new plastic bag donations for upcycling until further notice (most likely Summer 2015). There are at least 10,000 bags currently in the studio that need sorting, cleaning, and processing. Please check back here, head to Facebook for updates or continue reading for tips on what to do next.
I want to join the mission! What can I do?
1. REFUSE AND REDUCE: You can head here for tips on how to reduce your plastic waste.
2. RECYCLE: Please see below for a great reference guide showing you what bags you can recycle at participating retailers to help decrease the amount of plastic that you throw away in your household. Pellet fuel recycling guide can be found here.
4. JOIN A WORKSHOP: Join Lou and take a class to learn how to craft with your own household’s waste.
Which plastic bags go where?!? Interpreting the Guide
There is no simple, brainless solution. Manufacturers create packaging without taking into consideration what happens after the product is taken out and consumed. Many plastic bags contain waxes and metals and cannot be turned back into pure raw material. Therefore, each type of plastic bag has a different home. We must be very cautious to not assume all plastic is the same and toss it in alongside of other bags for recycling or alongside of milk jugs and other hard plastics. All plastic is not created equally!
Each community’s collection procedures are different: The general rule is: RESEARCH your community’s guidelines. Some offer curbside, some only offer at retail grocers, it is up to you to become INFORMED. The guidelines posted in this page are for Franklin County, MA and could generally be applied to most national retails that collect such as Staples, Whole Foods, Stop and Shop, Big Y, Hannaford, Von’s, etc. Please check with your local retailers and if they don’t have a bin, start advocating for one!
Take a look at the column on the left of the guide below. These are the only plastic bags you can recycle at participating stores. The rule is only #2 and #4 plastic bags can be recycled. Sometime’s it’s hard to know just what kind of plastic you are dealing with.
#2 (High density polyethylene) and #4 (low density polyethylene) plastic bags are the only type you can recycle and will be labeled with the circular arrow symbols on the bag, usually on the back, in the corner. If you don’t see the number, and the type of bag is not on the guide, your safest bet is to assume it’s not recyclable and do not toss it in the collection bin.
Plastic Bag Recycling Rules (Printable PDF)
Where do my recycled plastic bags go? Are they really getting recycled?
Here in Massachusetts, your recycled bags are headed to Trex, a decking company who uses your bags to create eco-friendly composite decking. You can read more about them here. While it’s not an end all solution, 500-square foot composite Trex deck contains 140,000 recycled plastic bags! That makes them one of the largest plastic bag recyclers in the U.S.
We have seen a HUGE increase increase in plastic bag recycling in the past few years but still, the world is only recycling about 3-5% of the total amount of bags out there. NOT using plastic bags is the best bet. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to live a plastic free life but some have succeeded and many try every day. Plastic is everywhere.
I’ve recycled the plastic bags that I can. What do I do with the rest?
When you do end up needing to eat those chips, what do you do with the bag? Feel free to start an upcycling pile. This works well if it is located next to your recycling containers, under the sink, next to the trash, anywhere you’ll remember to save it instead of sending it into the waste stream.
What do you save? On the guide above, there are a variety of un-recyclable bags listed on the right hand side. If it’s plastic, it can be upcycled. Yes, some bags feel papery or waxy or flimsy. They can still be upcycled. The only plastic that Lou cannot upcycle is the super crunchy circular safety ring often found around glass peanut butter jars, cottage cheese, and other foods. Otherwise, there are thousands of bags Lou can upcycles. Let’s list a bunch of possibilities: pet food (including farm animals), mylar balloons, flower bouquet wrap, frozen foods, candy wrappers, granola bar wrappers, chips, cereal, pasta, gum, frozen fruit, meal in a bag, new appliances, mattress covers, new computer wrappings, edamame, cut veggies, cheese, noodle in a bag, rice, coffee, juice pouches, french fries, bakery items, shipping and parcel bags, toys packaging (not hard blister packages), yard equipment, potting soil, pellet fuel, crackers, ramen, gift bags, phew, and we could go on.
How should I save them?
Please know that Lou receives over 10,000 bags a year and sometimes it takes months to process each batch of donations. Keeping this in mind please:
CONTINUE COLLECTING until the next donation period is open. There are many ways to get your bags to Lou. You can get in touch to schedule a studio drop off, find her at an event or workshop, or ship (dozens of folks ship boxes from all over the country, it’s quite cheap and Lou always offers a discount on her shop to offset your cost.)
Thanks for all you do!