The average American uses something like 500 Ziploc bags each year. Based on the 2020 U.S. population, that’s something like 165 billion little plastic baggies filtering through the U.S. this year.
Yeah, that’s a lot. Which got me wondering just where all those little baggies wind up? And are Ziploc plastic bags recyclable?
Yes, they can be recycled. But you’re probably doing it wrong. (If you’re doing it at all.)
Table of Contents
How to recycle Ziploc bags.
Where to recycle Ziploc bags.
Why you should recycle Ziploc bags.
What can I use instead of Ziploc bags?
They must be washed and dried.Before you can recycle a plastic bag of any sort, it must be clean and dry. This is important. If you think you can skip this step, and you throw a Ziploc with food bits or grease or crumbs in it into the recycling, you may contaminate the whole batch of recycling. Resulting in a lot more than just your little snack bag going to the landfill.So you’ve got to clean them first. It’s not all that difficult. I just soak them in some hot water and sanitizer (I use Force of Nature Cleaner) and wipe them down if there’s any grease or food bits stuck to them. My partner uses them to store things like bacon, so they get pretty greasy, but a little soap and hot water will take care of that.If you’re going to all the trouble of washing and drying them, why not keep using them? I use my Ziplocs until they are completely unusable.Reusing your Ziplocs (or anything you own for that matter) will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.And if you’re going to wash and reuse them…well, maybe it’s time to seek a better solution.
Not for your curbside recycling.Plastic bags are not accepted by most curbside recycling programs. If you’re not sure what your program accepts, you can check out the site of your waste management provider to find out. It’s a good idea to check with local recycling facilities to understand what you can and cannot include in your mixed recycling.Some recycling programs might accept plastic bags, but honestly, none that I’ve ever heard of do. So most of us will have to take them to a special plastic bag recycling bin. You can usually find these bins at grocery or retail stores, near the front entrance.If you already recycle other plastic bags, this should be no extra trouble for you. Just put your clean, dry Ziplocs in with your plastic shopping bags.If you don’t currently recycle plastic bags, please start.If you don’t ever have plastic bags to recycle because you use reusable bags, good for you! But that means you may need to start a new habit to recycle your Ziploc baggies.
Why recycle them?The obvious reason to recycle Ziploc plastic bags is to keep 165+ billion more pieces of plastic from floating around in the world and in the oceans.Did you know that only about 20% of recyclable plastic actually gets recycled? 20% of 165 billion is a pretty big number, but it’s still only 20%. And that number is inclusive of all kinds of plastic. I think recycling plastic bottles is probably a good chunk of that, if for no reason than because it’s much more convenient than plastic bag recycling.In fact, plastic bags are #5 on my Top 5 Causes of Plastic Pollution, accounting for nearly 10% of all plastic pollution.
Is there a better option?With all the hassle of recycling these little sandwich bags, I can’t help but think there must be a better option. And there is!Reusable options abound. I often use glass jars for food storage. And there are more durable options like GladWare or Tupperware style containers. These are still plastic, but reusable and durable plastic is far better than disposable, single-use plastic.You could use tinfoil, but that poses the same recycling issue when it comes to cleaning it. Don’t put it in your recycling covered in melted cheese or something.
For sandwiches and snacks, wax food wraps make a great alternative and are much easier to clean. These can usually be composted, but double check for the specific brand you use first.
Another option is silicone food storage bags. Instead of buying thousands—which according to my first stat of 500 per year, you’ll hit quickly—of single-use plastic food storage bags, you could buy these more durable and reusable silicone food storage bags.
Silicone is not the perfect replacement for plastic, but it’s a vast improvement. Here’s a detailed comparison of Silicone vs Plastic if you’re interested in learning more.
My partner likes to cook, and he loves Ziploc bags for freezer storage and for things like marinades. So I’ve got him washing and reusing them all to reduce consumption. But when I got the Stashers, I found a new solution. He absolutely loves them! (See discount code below!)
They work for freezer storage and sous-vide cooking as well. They can even go in the over…although I haven’t thought of a reason to put them in the oven, maybe just for fun someday? If you have any ideas about what you might cook in a silicone bag in the oven, add it in the comments below, cuz I’d love to hear it!
Will you recycle your Ziplocs?
Are Ziploc plastic bags recyclable? Yes. They can be recycled, but not in your curbside recycling, and they must be clean and dry before you recycle them. It’s not very convenient, and convenience is probably why you’re using them in the first place.
If you can’t commit to fully cleaning and drying your plastic food storage bags before you put them in the recycling, please don’t recycle them. You’re only risking even more waste going to landfills and polluting the oceans.
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of how to recycle them and why it’s important. Will you hold yourself accountable and follow the proper recycling steps, or should you start looking for a replacement? Only you can decide that.
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Author, Influencer, Superhero
I'm an aspiring superhero — trying to save the planet, one little step at a time. But I also live in an apartment and on a budget, so I understand that not everyone can buy an electric car and grow all their own food.
I’m not here to judge you or shame you for what you don’t do. I’m just here to show you what you can do. To share the possibilities of a greener tomorrow!