How Are Plastic Bags Recycled

How are plastic bags recycled? The plastic can be turned into pellets or new plastic bags, but you have to return your plastic bags to the grocery store first. Otherwise, the plastic bags might wind up in the water, thereby endangering animals.

Small plastic bags, as well as other sizes of plastic merchandise bags, are not necessarily recycled in the same manner. Grocery stores generally provide a recycle station where the small plastic bags can be returned, which are then returned to the manufacturer for recycling, but plastic merchandise bags from variety and hardware stores do not usually provide this service. That means, once you take the small plastic bag home with you, it is up to you to find a suitable manner of recycling the bag.

Processing Recycled Plastic Bags
Plastic merchandise bags that are returned to the manufacturer for recycling are heated in huge vats until they break down and soften. The reason plastic is able to be softened and remolded over and over again is because of its makeup. A plastic bag is essentially a chemical called a thermoplastic. A thermoplastic can be continually softened by heat and hardened by a cooling process.

After the plastic is melted into a liquid, it is forced through a press or die that shapes the plastic into whatever form the manufacturer requires. Generally, the plastic is made into small round pellets and stored until it can be either sold to another manufacturer and used to remake plastic bags or is sold to a manufacturer who is creating any number of plastic pieces, for human and pet use. If the plastic will be reused to recreate plastic bags, the pellets will be melted again and pressed through yet another die that will essentially form the plastic into thin sheets, cut it to the desired proportions and stamp it with the store's logo.

How Homeowners Can Recycle Plastic Bags
Homeowners can recycle used plastic bags in numerous ways. For one thing, they can be returned to the appropriate recycling stations. As long as people continue recycling their plastic bags by returning them to proper recycling stations, these plastic bags can be recycled time and time again. Some places even pay the consumers who return recyclable plastic bags several cents per bag.

However, only 12 percent of the plastic bags that are created are being recycled in this manner. A huge percentage of plastic bags end up in our waterways, where they become death traps for sea life. One article estimates that upwards of 100,000 seals, turtles, whales and other marine life confuse the white plastic bags for jellyfish, which is part of their diet. Once ingested, the plastic bag cannot be digested and eventually kills the animal.

Creating Strips Of Plastic Yarn
If you do not recycle your bags in a recycling station, you could recycle them by reusing them and/or turning the bags into items that can be used in other manners. For instance, you could create a re-useable plastic shopping bag by saving the bags and then cutting them into strips, which you then use as yarn to crochet into a bag. To do this, wash and dry the bag, place it on the table with the handle on one end and the bottom on the other and then fold it into a long strip. When you are finished, the bag should still retain its length but should be no wider than two inches. Cut the bottom of the bag off, and continue cutting the bag at one-inch intervals until you reach the handle. (The strips you are cutting off will actually be loops because you have not cut the sides of the bag.) Discard the bottom of the bag and the handle. Take the loops of plastic, and interconnect them so that you end up with one continuous piece of double-stranded plastic. Roll it into a ball, and use as you would any other yarn to create a shopping bag. After each visit to the grocery store, your new shopping bag should be washed to disinfect it.

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