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February 16, 2018 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Is there anywhere in NYC I can recycle the enormous quantity of plastic bags I have accumulated over the years?

When I Google this, the information I find says that you can recycle the bags at the retail store at which you acquired them. Two issues with this:
(1.) I often don't see these recycling bins at the store
(2.) I have all kinds of plastic bags - from the grocery store, from Target, those little black ones from the liquor store, old Ziplock bags, plastic bags that things you buy come in, etc. I'm not going to separate these out.

Other notes:
(1.) I have already long ago reduced acquiring new plastic bags as much as humanly possible with reusable bags, refusing a bag, etc., so please don't scold.
(2.) I have more than a lifetime supply for reuse purposes.

I would feel awful just throwing them away, but I'm in an apartment, and I don't want to keep a big garbage bag of bags around for years on end (and I'll move eventually anyway, and of course I won't take them). If anyone wants any for reuse, please feel free to get in touch. I even tried putting them on the free stuff section of CraigsList.
posted by unannihilated to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not in NY so if recycling is radically different there I apologize, but if you are not going to separate them, you will have to throw them away. The only plastic bags that are recyclable are grocery carrier bags, which the grocery stores will accept and recycle, although they are a pain to process at the recycling plant as they snag the belts. Toss the lot.
posted by Gnella at 10:01 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're near Union square, I will take some!
posted by rmless at 10:01 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

What's the nearest place with a bag ban? You could try offering them on a local craigslist or facebook group there. I thought I had enough plastic bags to last me forever, and then my city and several surrounding cities banned plastic bags, and now I am constantly on the lookout for plastic bags.
posted by mskyle at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Those thin plastic bags just aren't recyclable through the city stream. You're going to have to toss them.
posted by praemunire at 10:08 AM on February 16, 2018

Do you have any friends with cats? I have become the de facto recycler of used plastic bags for many of my friends because I use one every time I clean out the cat box, which is every day.
posted by dizziest at 10:09 AM on February 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

Thrift stores near me happily take bags that they can reuse to fill with customer's purchases.
posted by molasses at 10:24 AM on February 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

Many large grocery stores have a plastic bag recycling bin. For sure the Stop N Shop in Forest Hills that's by the Dress Barn. Typically it's a dropoff bin by the front of the store.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:33 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would feel awful just throwing them away

If it isn't worth your time to sort the bags in such a way as the different types could be dealt with separately, you've already basically decided they're trash, they're just trash that lives in your space. Feeling bad about throwing away trash and therefore keeping the trash is actual hoarding behavior and a bad trap to fall in. If you try a few more things but don't find a good solution to this, throw them away and give $20 to an environmental group or something if you need to deal with the guilt part. Which is not to say you should make no effort to recycle, but when you start thinking "it's not worth my time to do this thing to prep them to give away or recycle" then they're trash.
posted by Sequence at 10:35 AM on February 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

This may help your search.
posted by saladin at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding the "give them to pet owners." They work as dog/cat poop bags.

Or, use them as bin liners for your bathroom trash can.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ok, so, as above, large enough stores in NY that give them out have to accept them. That said, I keep being a little up and down over what's accepted. this includes the bags that you'd get from basically any retailer, bread bags, cereal liners, ziplocs, but not frozen food bags or salad bags or a few others. Finding a "total" list is hard. The plastic film recycling site above does have a page about it. If it's pretty much that, find a store, do it one time, be done. If not...yeah, pet owners, or just trash them and sort/trash on the very occasional bag you get later.
posted by annabear at 12:12 PM on February 16, 2018

Saladin's second link is helpful but not comprehensive. It doesn't include smaller chains like Key Foods and Associated, which I think are still big enough that they're supposed to maintain grocery bag recycling bins. My local Key Foods definitely has one, call your nearby supermarkets and ask around.
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:18 PM on February 16, 2018

CVS has the plastic bag recycling bins. I imagine the other chain pharmacies will as well. A Fine Fare grocery store near me has them but they keep them in an out-of-the-way corner.
posted by plastic_animals at 12:48 PM on February 16, 2018

Whole foods has the bins where you can get carts, both at union sq as well as Houston locations.
posted by larthegreat at 12:57 PM on February 16, 2018

In case you or a friend are into crafty things. Me, I use them to make sandwich bags.

(Note that you should only do this with bags marked as HDPE. Not all plastics are created equal, and some may decompose in ways not conducive to good health under this amount of heat)
posted by solotoro at 1:47 PM on February 16, 2018

Nthing give them to pet owners. But perhaps you can break them down into smaller bundles, rather than giving one whole trash bag full to another person. Maybe transfer enough the big trash bag to fill one grocery bag and give that to the person.

Do you happen to know anyone who has a kid in daycare? Our daycare always wanted parents to bring in plastic bags, as that was how they sent home wet or extra dirty clothes. Maybe you could give away a grocery bag or two full that way.

Having gone through the getting-rid-of-semi-useful-stuff phase a few times myself, my best advice is once you've decided to get rid of something, don't spend more than a week trying to find it a new place to live. If you can't find anyone to quickly take you up on your offer then the item really isn't all that useful, put it in the trash.
posted by vignettist at 1:47 PM on February 16, 2018

You could actually take the "little library" approach to going the pet-poop-bag option.

In my own neighborhood, one of the schools made it a school project for the kids to take used 2-liter soda bottles and turn them into "dog poop bag holders". They taped them up onto street signs in the blocks around the school, with little signs asking people to use the plastic bags to clean up their dog's poop. Of course, the bags soon ran out - but I've seen people re-stocking them with their own bags (and have re-stocked them with bags from my own stash when that got unruly).

You could try seeing if your local school has such a thing planned soon, and just give them all the bags; or, make sudh a public-placed holder yourself. I think they just cut the bottom off a 2-liter bottle, turned it upside down, stuffed it full of bags and fed one through the nozzle so they would be contained but retrievable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:53 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’ve seen dog parks that have bags of bags or other dispensers of reused clean bags.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:48 PM on February 16, 2018

I apologize that this isn't specific to the NYC area, but it may give you a starting point:

I have seen organizations in various cities that weave together used cellophane bags to create water-resistant sleeping pads for the homeless. If such an organization exists in your area, it would be a lovely way to repurpose your bags.
posted by aquamvidam at 4:22 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just to clear up a possible misconception in your first note (2): You don't have to separate out the bags by brand or anything. Like, you don't have to go back to Stop & Shop with only Stop & Shop's bags. Any regular plastic bag can be placed into any store's bag recycling bin. You can also put in the large outer wrappers from big bundles of paper towels or toilet paper. Those bins will take all plastic bags. So find one store in your neighborhood that takes them and you're all set.
posted by clone boulevard at 5:07 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, great title. That was one of my favorite articles ever posted in the Times.
posted by clone boulevard at 5:08 PM on February 16, 2018

I bring my plastic bags with me when I shop and instruct them to use them instead of giving me new ones. It needn't match the store it came from.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:43 PM on February 16, 2018

Suffolk county now charges five cents per bag, so if you listed them as "free" in Suffolk Craigslist you might get a taker.
posted by Marky at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2018

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