This article was originally published in March 2023

Tons of success from plastic film recycling

A local pilot program collecting plastic film for recycling brought in some 25 tons of material and showed encouraging ways to reduce waste in landfills. 

The 5-month program that ended in May placed drop-off bins for “film packaging” such as plastic bread bags or dry cleaning bags at 10 independent grocers in the region, including the Bothell and Edmonds PCC stores. Such plastics can’t go in municipal curbside bins for recycling because they get tangled in equipment at recycling facilities and have to be removed by hand. 

Material from the bins was collected, sorted (with contaminants removed) and baled before being sent for recycling, according to the program report. Audits after shipping showed about 94% of each bale was useful plastic, “an especially high success rate,” the report said.

The pilot program “confirms that the people of King County want to reduce waste and will recycle more when companies make it convenient,” said Adrian Tan, Policy and Markets development manager at the King County Solid Waste Division, in a press release. “It also identifies effective strategies that could significantly cut the amount of plastic film packaging that ends up buried in our landfill each year.”

The materials collected were recycled into resin or reusable pellets. About 71% was clear film and 23% was colored film, according to the report. The pilot was directed by Return-It, a nonprofit recycling organization, and funded through the American Chemistry Council’s Wrap Recycling Action Program.

While the pilot project has ended, other options remain for plastic film recycling. Note that not all plastic film is recyclable and not all locations accept every type. King County residents can also recycle plastic film at the Bow Lake Recycling Center/Transfer Station with proof they live or do business within King County’s service area, which excludes the cities of Seattle and Milton.

Puget Sound residents can also recycle certain types of plastic film through Ridwell, a Seattle startup making it easy for residents to recycle materials that aren’t typically accepted in curbside recycling. Its mission aligns with PCC’s waste-reduction goals, and PCC members get an exclusive 10% off any Ridwell membership. Click here for details.

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