The Ocean County Solid Waste Management Department regularly reminds area residents and vacationers that plastic bags, wraps and film cannot be placed in curbside recycling as these materials impede the efficiency of single-stream sorting and can damage processing equipment. Machines at the Lakewood County Recycling Center constantly jam due to bags and other unacceptable plastics mixed in with the recyclables.
County Commissioner Gary Quinn, County Recycling Program Liaison, noted, “Plastic bags have created significant problems at our processing plant. Recyclable materials should not be placed in plastic bags, nor should plastic bags be thrown into recycling bins. In terms of contamination, plastic bags entering the recycling stream are certainly the biggest problem where the help of our residents can make an immediate difference.
So where do you get these many types of plastic: bags of groceries and single-use products; packaging of goods on cases of water bottles and soft drinks; zippered food storage bags, such as Ziplocs; overwrapping of products from paper towels and toilet paper; newspaper bags; bread bags; dry cleaning bags; cereal box liners (unless they tear like paper); plastic mailing envelopes (without labels), bubble wrap and air cushions (deflated); and any other packaging or bag bearing the How2Recycle label?
Fortunately, some local stores collect these items, though the number of establishments with collection bins has dwindled since the pandemic and the statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.
The website bagandfilmrecycling.org allows users to enter a postcode to generate a list of nearby retailers that have plastic bag, film and wrap depots. However, the listing for the greater Long Beach Island area is not quite up to date.
Locations that still have collection bins include: Acme at 609 East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin; Kohl’s, at 205 Route 72 West in Manahawkin; and Target, at 209 Stafford Park Blvd. in Manahawkin.
The ShopRite at 295 Route 72 in Manahawkin once had a bin, but it was recently removed. Likewise, the LBI Acme, at 9700 Long Beach Blvd. at Beach Haven Park, no longer a collection site.
Certain plastic items are not accepted at these drop-off points. These include biodegradable or compostable bags, pre-washed salad mix bags, candy wrappers, and most pet food bags. Accepted items, meanwhile, must be clean and dry – with no crumbs, food residue or liquid inside.
As noted on how2recycle.info/sdo, some bags, wraps, and films can “be recycled into synthetic wood for patios or park benches, or they can be recycled directly into another bag.” According to Ocean County, a few schools have even collected plastic film for the Trex Plastic Film Recycling Challenge, where Trex donates a composite bench to the school that collects the most film.
“Store drop-off programs have been the primary way to recover clean, dry bags, film and packaging for over 20 years,” bagandfilmrecycling.org Explain. “We encourage you to let your local stores know that you appreciate the recycling service they provide or remind them that it’s important for customers like you to have a bin for bags and film.” —JK-H.