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Plastic bags are not recyclable in City of Fort Lauderdale residential carts, nor in public space containers. However, there are options for reducing plastic waste and recycling bags. With a little effort, plastic bags, film and wrap can be turned into materials such as composite lumber.

What is considered a plastic bag?

This category of waste includes the following items which look or feel like plastic bags:

Plastic Item Commonly Used or Found In 
Single use bags of any size and type  From snack or sandwich-sized up to those used as trash can liners
Plastic shopping bags of any size or type Including those commonly distributed at supermarkets and also heavier varieties
Clothing covers Used by dry cleaners and retail stores
Plastic film Used for food wrap, and anything with a similar look or feel
Plastic shipping materials Bubble wrap and inflatable inserts and padding
Shipping or packaging bags Used for newspaper delivery, produce purchase, and pet waste. Found around prepared breads.
Sealed plastic film packaging Containing food, toys, cosmetics, office supplies, and other products
Plastic bag inserts Such as that used inside cereal boxes 
Plastic covers From books, report bindings, spiral notebooks 
Photographic film X-rays, 35mm camera film, and similar 

How can plastic bags be recycled?

There are several ways to reduce the waste associated with plastic bags and similar items.

  • The best way to reduce this waste it to eliminate it. Bring your own bags when you shop. Pack waste free lunches. Choose products distributed in minimal or recyclable packaging.
  • Speak up at check-out. When you must use a plastic bag, ask your cashier or bagger to fill bags completely, not to double bag, and to skip bags for large items that can be carried as is.
  • Re-use bags. The beauty of plastic is that with quick removal or a light rinse it stays relatively clean. Try to re-use bags many times over.
  • Recycle when you can. Most supermarkets and big box stores participate in bulk recycling programs for bags. Simply bundle your baggies and bags of any size, bring them back to the store, and deposit in specially marked containers which are usually just outside or inside the store entrance.
  • Donate your bags.
    • Animal rescue agencies will often accept small bags (such as those from newspapers and produce) to be used for pet waste clean-up.
    • Consignment shops and charity stores will often accept bags. Your donation cuts their operating expenses.

Why are they not recyclable in Fort Lauderdale's containers?

Plastic bags must be separated from the general recycling stream in order to be processed. Because of their light weight, flexibility and fragility, there is no easy way to automate this separation. It is labor intensive when the bags are mixed with other recyclables, which makes it expensive and not feasible for the processor. The bags also tend to get stuck inside the automated beltways used in recycling facilities. This slows or stops intake, and could lead to costly repairs. Therefore, in a general recycling materials recovery facility, plastic bags are usually considered contamination. This is the case in Fort Lauderdale. 

Learn More

Earth911 LogoUse Earth911's comprehensive information on How to Recycle Plastic Bags to explore fact sheets on plastic bag, film and wrap recycling. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find drop locations and recycling centers for all types of bags. You can also link to plasticbagfacts.org from there.

American Chemistry Council Logo

Explore the American chemistry Council's plasticfilmrecycling.org website. This is a new venture with information for businesses and consumers. Keep an eye on their recycling center drop off directory. Businesses can sign up to participate and use their downloadable posters and other materials to advertise themselves as recycling drop locations.

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