We ask two grocery store chains to tell us what's accepted in plastic bag recycling bins. Image courtesy of Trex. 

Aug. 7, 2017

Many grocery stores offer bins where customers can drop off plastic film bags for recycling. But have you ever wondered whether that department store bag or plastic wrapping you stuck in there gets also recycled?

We asked two major grocery stores, Albertsons and Tom Thumb, which are owned by the same parent company, and HEB/Central Markets, for the scoop.  

Connie Yates, public affairs and communications manager with Albertsons and Tom Thumb, says that Trex, a company that makes composite decking, playground equipment, outdoor benches, plastic bags, etc., purchases and picks up used plastic bags from their stores as needed. They are then taken to the Trex Recycling Centers in Winchester, Va. and Femley, Nev.  

Some stores have more plastic bags than others, so there’s no set schedule.  

Plastic films that can be placed in Albertsons and Tom Thumb recycle bins are:

Plastic grocery and retail bags, 

bread bags, 

mattress bags, 

furniture wrap

case over-wrap (found on diapers, toilet paper, etc.)

dry cleaning bags

newspaper sleeves

ice bags

pellet bags

ziplock and other re-closable bags

produce bags

bubble wrap

salt bags

cereal bags

stretch film/pallet wrap.

Yates stresses that the one important thing to remember is that bags should be clean and dry.

Richard McDonald, corporate director environmental affairs at HEB Stores and Central Markets, says that they don’t use a point of source and explains that a store employee checks the bins to see if they are getting full.  

“It all depends on volume,” he says. “When the bins are full, our employee pulls the bag and places a new bag in. We have some stores where the employee picks up the bags a couple of times a week and some stores maybe once a week.”

Each Central Market and the few HEB stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area south of Fort Worth sees that the bags are taken to the back of the store in the receiving area and held for about two days until the bulk recycle run is scheduled for San Antonio.  

“Each store individually handles their own plastics recycle accumulation and removal, with HEB trucks picking up and taking to the San Antonio Return Goods Center,” McDonald explains.  “Once sorted and bailed, Republic Services picks up for recycling.”

McDonald adds that after recycling and the run to the commodities’ markets, they ultimately return as new plastic bags, plastic five-gallon buckets and several other new recycled products for consumers’ and industries’ use.  

He says that they accept a variety of bags and because bins are set up for use of the public, they don’t monitor it 24/7.  

“We have bags that have food material and those bags, along with any that have residue in them, have to be thrown out when they reach their destination,” he adds. “From a collector’s standpoint, we don’t want a mixed stream, and we will get trash such as foodstuff and glass.  What we want is pretty much anything that is part of plastics, i.e., bubble wrap, wrap that goes around pallets, Saran Wrap, etc.” 

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