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Stores take on bag recycling, reuse

Grocery stores are still accepting plastic bags for recycling (I think they are required to by law). Are they actually still recycling them, or are the bags going to the landfill?

— Anna S., Medford

There are a few different ways that stores are handling plastic bags, Anna.

We couldn’t find any evidence of a law mandating that grocery stores accept plastic bags in Oregon. Many stores do so because they make corporate commitments to accept the bags. Walmart, for example, set a goal in 2008 to reduce its plastic shopping bag waste by 33 percent per store in the following five years.

We called Walmart to ask how keeping that pledge had gone but didn’t get a response back.

Rogue Disposal said it doesn’t have a specific agreement with grocery stores to pick up their bags. Instead, said Recycling Manager Denise Barnes, stores have their own systems for managing plastic bag recycling.

Plasticfilmrecycling.org can help you find bag recycling drop-off locations in the area, and also includes information about the kinds of plastic film that can be recycled and what happens after it is dropped off. Recycled plastic bags can be used to make composite lumber, which is used in decks, benches and playground sets, the website says.

A search of the site showed that several stores, including Fred Meyer, Walmart, Albertsons, Safeway and Target, accept plastic bags.

Barnes stressed that people shouldn’t toss plastic bags in with commingled recycling that goes into red-lid curbside bins.

The soft plastics, when delivered to a processor, often tangle up the machines’ moving parts, which causes delays. As a result, commingled recycling that includes plastic film will typically be sent to the landfill.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.