Focus on MMBC Materials: Recycling Plastic Bags and Overwrap

Published on October 1, 2014 2:05 PM

We receive many questions about recycling plastic bags and overwrap and why these materials are accepted only at depots that operate as Multi-Material BC (MMBC) depots. This is a change for those residents in BC where curbside collection of plastic bags was previously available. Below we outline why we shifted collection to depots only, and how to tell if the plastic bag you have is recyclable.

Shifting to depot-only collection

When MMBC developed its Packaging and Printed Paper Stewardship Plan, MMBC researched and considered the location of material re-manufacturers and their requirements for the packaging and printed paper they accept. As a result of this assessment, MMBC made two decisions about plastic bags and overwrap to help ensure that these materials would meet the specifications of North American material re-manufacturers.

  1. MMBC asked collectors to remove plastic bags and overwrap from curbside and multi-family collection systems to avoid commingling with other recyclables. Keeping plastic bags and overwrap segregated from all other types of packaging and printed paper avoids having the plastic bags and overwrap mix with other recyclables and avoids other recyclables mixing with plastic bags and overwrap.
  2. MMBC asked collectors to accept only certain types of plastic bags and overwrap —the types that feel smooth when you rub them together, like produce bags or the overwrap on paper towels or toilet tissue—as these types of plastic bags and overwrap are recyclable when mixed together. If any other types of soft plastic packaging (for example, packaging for cheese or deli slices, which is multiple layers of different kinds of plastics) are mixed in, the mixture is not accepted by North American material re-manufacturers.

In short, to be able to process plastic bags and overwrap into pellets for use in new products or packaging, it is important that plastic bags and overwrap not be mixed with other plastic types. By dropping plastic bags and overwrap off at depots, you can ensure that they will be recycled properly.

Figuring out what to take to the depot

Since North American material re-manufacturers accept only certain types of plastic bags and overwrap, we have provided a detailed list of acceptable packaging. We’ve also developed a decision tree below, to help residents determine if the plastic bag or overwrap is acceptable.

  • If it was not packaging containing a product when you purchased it (for example, garbage bags), exclude it
  • If it has a zipper closure, exclude it
  • If it has a # 2 or # 4 resin code, include it
  • If it has any resin code other than # 2 or # 4 resin code, exclude it
  • If there is no resin code:
    • If it is stretch wrap or wrap used on deli foods, exclude it
    • If it is marked biodegradable or compostable, exclude it
    • If it is crinkly and loud when rubbed (like cellophane, chip bags, and candy wrappers ), exclude it
    • If it is packaging used for bacon, deli meats, cheese slices, etc., exclude it (this packaging is made of multiple layers, including a barrier to prevent air or moisture from spoiling the product)
    • If it is smooth when rubbed, include it

If you still have questions, the staff at your nearest depot will be able to help you determine whether the plastic bag or overwrap is accepted.

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