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Store Drop-Off Recycling Explained

Plastic bags with recycling symbols in green, blue, and red colors.

Every business owner wants to minimize their environmental impact, and choosing the right packaging is a key step. But what happens to all those plastic bags, wraps, and films used for shipping and product protection? Unfortunately, curbside recycling often isn’t the answer. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution: store drop-off recycling programs.

The Power of Choice: Sustainable Packaging for Businesses

As a business owner, you have the power to make a significant impact on the environment through your choices in packaging materials. While many types of plastic bags, wraps, and films cannot be recycled through curbside programs, there is still a way to ensure these materials are properly recycled and kept out of landfills: store drop-off recycling.

By choosing packaging that’s eligible for this program, you’ll demonstrate your organization’s commitment to sustainability and more strongly appeal to eco-conscious consumers. Together, you’ll contribute to a cleaner future.

What is Store Drop-Off Recycling?

Store drop-off recycling is a program that allows consumers to bring certain types of flexible plastic packaging – like grocery bags, bread bags, and plastic wraps – to participating retail locations for proper recycling.

These materials are then collected and sent to specialized recycling facilities where they are processed into raw materials. These recycled raw materials can then be used to create a variety of new products, including durable composite lumber for decks and benches, as well as new plastic bags and packaging.

The need for store drop-off recycling programs becomes clear when you consider that, as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), plastic wrap and plastic bags are among the top 10 most common items found in landfills. In fact, Americans use approximately 380 billion plastic bags and wraps each year.

When companies participate in store drop-off recycling, consumers can help divert these materials from landfills and give them a second life as new, useful products.

Benefits for Businesses

By choosing packaging materials that are eligible for store drop-off recycling, businesses can establish their commitment to sustainability and appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

Survey research from McKinsey & Company found that 66% of consumers consider sustainability when making a purchase. When organizations make the switch to recyclable packaging, they can reduce their waste disposal costs and potentially qualify for tax incentives or grants that are related to sustainable practices.

What Kinds of Materials are Accepted?

Plastic bags are OK for store drop-off recycling

When your company is ready to make a difference with your packaging, you’ll be happy to know that most store drop-off programs accept a wide range of flexible plastic packaging, including:

  • Grocery & produce bags
  • Bread bags
  • Plastic stretch wraps from paper towels, diapers, and cases of water bottles
  • Air cushions & bubble wrap
  • Cereal bags
  • The plastic film around paper towels is store drop-off recyclableZipper bags
  • Newspaper bags

One study found that nearly 95% of Americans have access to a store drop-off recycling location within 10 miles of their home. That means it’s incredibly easy for most people to recycle their flexible plastic packaging.

Shipping air cushion pillow packaging

Just keep an eye out for the How2Recycle store drop-off recycling label or choose from a wide selection of eco-friendly EnviroPackaging products that say “Recyclable – Not Curbside.”

By making these simple choices, you’re helping to keep tons of plastic out of landfills and giving these materials a new life.

What can’t be Recycled with the Store Drop-Off Program?

Through Store Drop-Off, only a select few types of packages can be recycled. You shouldn’t bring any of these items to the store with your bags and wraps:

  • Bags that decompose or are compostable
  • Bags of pre-washed salad mix
  • Most pet food bags
  • Metallized chip bags

To prevent contaminating the recycling bin, don’t put anything in store drop-off recycling if you don’t see the item mentioned above or the How2Recycle label on it.

Finding a Drop-Off LocationStore Drop-Off Recycling Bins

Many major retailers, such as Target, Walmart, and Wegmans, have collection bins for store drop-off recycling. It’s important to note that you can bring your recyclable packaging to any participating retailer, regardless of where the items were purchased.

Find a nearby store drop-off recycling location >

How to Organize Your Packaging for Drop-Off

To make sure your packaging is recycled effectively, it’s essential to prepare it correctly before dropping it off. We recommend following these two easy steps:

  1. Start by removing any paper labels, because they can disrupt the recycling process.
  2. Next, ensure the packaging is clean and dry, without any food residue or moisture. While you don’t need to scrub each item until it’s spotless, shaking out crumbs and letting wet bags dry fully helps preserve the quality of your recycled packaging.

Based on data from a recent McKinsey report, properly sorted and cleaned recyclables can increase the value of recycled materials by up to 50%. This means that by taking a few simple steps to prepare your packaging, you’re not only contributing to a more efficient recycling process but also helping to create higher-quality recycled materials that can be used to make new products.

Your organization’s efforts can make a real difference in the effectiveness of recycling and the sustainability of our planet’s resources.

What does “Recycle if Clean & Dry” Mean?

Store drop-off recycling station

When you return plastic bags, wraps, and films to the store, they must be dry and empty. This implies that there aren’t any food bits, liquid, or crumbs inside of them.

Every bag you intend to recycle doesn’t need to be thoroughly cleaned and allowed to air dry, but if there are crumbs, shake them out. If the bag is wet, allow the water to dry completely before placing it in the recycling container.

Why should I Remove the Paper Label before Recycling?Remove printed labels from plastic bags

Paper mailing labels are included on the majority of plastic mailers, as well as on a few other wraps and bags. Paper labels hurt the recycling process at the store drop-off.

To ensure plastic mailers don’t interrupt the recycling process, be sure to remove any paper labels from your bag before bringing it to the store drop-off area. If the labels are difficult to remove, you can use scissors to clip them off.

By removing paper labels from plastic mailers, consumers play a crucial role in doing their part so  recycling systems function efficiently. Properly recycled plastic can be turned into a wide range of new products, from new packaging materials to park benches and playground equipment.

What are the Recycling Numbers?Resin Identification Codes

Resin Identification Codes, which are frequently mistaken for “recycling codes,” are used in some places to specify the kinds of plastic that are acceptable. For instance, flexible plastic containers with the numbers #2 or #4 are typically acceptable for the store drop-off bin.

However, these figures don’t necessarily provide a whole picture of recycling. Even though it may be unclear, when your city refers to “#2 and #4 plastics” in curbside bins, they’re referring to hard plastics like bottles and jugs.

Avoid trying to recycle your bags, wrappers, and films at the curb. If a package carries the How2Recycle Store Drop-Off label, it’s approved for recycling through Store Drop-off, according to How2Recycle.

How is the Environmental Affected?

Regardless of their size, businesses that choose to take part in store drop-off recycling are making a conscious effort to do something worthwhile and valuable for the environment. It’s a simple way to cut down on waste and help protect the Earth for future generations.

To put it into perspective, recycling or reusing just one ton of plastic bags saves the same amount of energy as 11 barrels of oil or 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of gasoline. Those are pretty amazing statistics when you think about it! And it’s a perfect real-world example that shows how the little things businesses do can quickly add up to make a big difference for the environment.

Recycling offers a wealth of benefits beyond just saving energy. It also:

  • Helps conserve our precious natural resources to ensure they’re available for future generations
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and air pollution
  • Decreases the amount of waste sent to landfills to keep our communities cleaner and healthier

So not only are you saving energy; you’re helping protect our forests, reduce air pollution, and keep our communities clean. It’s a win-win situation all around. The more we can recycle and reuse, the better off our Earth will be in the long run. Every little bit counts!

The Final Wrap on Store Drop-Off Recycling

As a business owner, choosing packaging materials that are eligible for store drop-off recycling is a simple yet effective way to illustrate your organization’s commitment to sustainability. By making this eco-friendly choice, you can more effectively appeal to your environmentally conscious consumers, reduce waste disposal costs, and contribute to a cleaner, greener future. Together, we can make a difference one package at a time.

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