Dear Dot: How Can I Recycle Plastic Bags?



Dear Dot,
We used to be able to take plastic bags to Stop and Shop [to recycle]. Is there any other option locally? Stop and Shop stopped taking them.
—Jana Bertkau

Dear Jana,
The eldest of my Young Dots recently spotted a bird on the ground. She moved closer to investigate and saw that the bird was on its back, its beak pointed skyward, and out of that beak was the edge of a plastic bag. This bird had choked on polyethylene, an all-too-striking symbol of how plastic has infiltrated every part of our planet.

Plastic bags are literally everywhere: in our waterways, in our trees, in our landfills, and in our many creatures. Plastic bags are among the most common marine debris. They are often mistaken for food and ingested.

Stop and Shop’s plastic bag recycling program was a popular initiative, and its absence is keenly felt. Dot’s ears have been filled more than once with lament from those who miss it. Our friends at Earth911 tell us that recycling a ton of plastic bags (about 450,000) saves 11 barrels of oil. When bags are recycled, they are turned into pellets and typically used in products like Trex decking.

Stop and Shop stopped collecting plastic bags when COVID hit, the manager at the Edgartown location told me. If you recall, there was much confusion and concern about transmission in those early COVID days, and most were playing it safe rather than sorry. The policy remains in place though the manager is currently investigating if and when it might be reinstated — so stay tuned.

But one of the most important recycling rules is to do what we can to avoid single-use plastics in the first place. This is the thinking behind Plastic Free July, a global initiative that challenges us to refuse single-use plastics. Take reusable bags to the grocery store, avoid plastic packaging (yeah, I know. But we can try). And when you can, find a re-use for your plastic bags. Offer them up as poop bags to friends with pets. See if your local shop owner can make use of them. I used to donate to a church group that wove sleeping mats out of them.

Even if Stop and Shop puts its bag collection back into place (and we hope it does!), keep in mind these words from Ben Robinson and the Plastic Free MV kids: “Any recycling is only temporary, eventually all plastic becomes waste at some point, and soft plastic recycling is hard to accomplish and hard to collect.”

Got a question for Dot? Let her know here:

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