Lou is not accepting any new plastic bag donations for upcycling EXCEPT CEREAL AND CRACKER BAGS (seen above) as these are in short supply and very much needed for Lou’s workshops and classes. Please get in touch by clicking here if you have cereal or cracker bags to donate and read below for tips on what else you can do with your other bags, wrappers, and packaging instead of throwing them away.
I want to join the mission! What can I do?
1. REFUSE AND REDUCE: Head here for tips on how to reduce your plastic bag waste.
2. RECYCLE: See below for a plastic bag recycling guide. Remember, you can’t put bags in with your other recyclables! Pellet fuel bag recycling guide can be found here.
4. JOIN A WORKSHOP: Take an upcycling workshop with Lou and learn how to create with your own household’s waste.
6. EDUCATE YOURSELF AND YOUR NEIGHBORS about our plastic pandemic.
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. Most plastic bags end up in the trash. Let’s change that!
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 GUIDELINES (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. Until Lou is accepting donations again in 2016, you can head to Terracycle as they may be able to accept your bags.
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!