July 29, 2015 Recycling No Comments


Dear Sarah,
I have been shopping online quite a bit. I receive goods in plastic bags with [the enclosed] label. How do I recycle them?
— Pat A. 


Pat included a piece of the plastic shipping bag for me to evaluate. The language on the sample reads, “In our effort to help save the environment, we are using fewer cardboard boxes and have packed your order with pride in a recyclable bag.” Next to this language is a chasing arrows triangle with the number 4 inside, and the letters “LDPE” below the triangle.

The good news is, this particular shipping bag is allowed in the grocery bag take-back recycling program called ReStore. ReStore recycling bins are located at large supermarkets, pharmacies and big-box stores. (Plastic bags are not allowed in curbside bins and carts, or in transfer station household recycling drop-off containers.)

Normally when talking about how to know if something is recyclable in Rhode Island, we say to disregard the numbers and the triangle.

In this case, because the item doesn’t fit the plastics rule of thumb (a container that holds fewer than 5 gallons), it needs more explanation. The plastic film rule of thumb has been that the film be: clean and dry; clear or somewhat see-through; and stretchable (at least a little).

In conversations last week with our plastic film customer Trex, they’ve let us know that all colors are now OK to include in ReStore collection bins, so we’ll be making that change to our Frequently Asked Questions on our websites.

If these criteria are met, the film can be recycled in the plastic bag recycling container at grocery, pharmacy or big-box stores.

Not all films have a triangle or number printed on them, which is why we developed the general rule of thumb that doesn’t mention them. But, if you are so inclined and have a desire for specificity, here’s the skinny: Numbers on plastics are resin identification codes (RIC) that manufacturers use to show the main blend of the material. So, “#2” is the RIC for high-density polyethylene (HDPE). A “#4” is the code for low-density polyethylene (LDPE).

Plastic film may not have anything printed on it, in which case use the film rule of thumb to guide your decisions. But if it does, here’s what to look for: “LDPE,” “HDPE,” “PE” or “Polyethylene.” If you see those abbreviations or the numbers 2 or 4, the film is recyclable at the market.

Written by ovpadmin