How To Reuse and Recycle Ziploc Bags

by heather

300_139137Most people use resealable plastic bags like Ziploc. I mean, they’re just so darn handy…

The problem here? Well, the problem is that they’re plastic. And the problem lies in the fact that most people use their Ziploc bags once, and then throw them away. I know…I used to do the same thing.

I stopped buying Ziploc bags months ago. I’ve been using them sparingly, and reusing them every chance I get.

The problem, at least with me, is drying the Ziploc bags. I don’t like drying them in the kitchen because a) my house in currently up for sale and b) it makes my small kitchen looked cluttered.

So, I decide to research other ways to dry my Ziplocs. Your benefit? You get a whole post about reusing and recycling plastic bags. Yippee! :)

Reuse Ziploc Bags First

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit: washing Ziploc bags can be a pain. To be quite honest, it’s one of those chores that makes me grind my teeth.

But, I suck it up and do it, and then chide myself to stop being so lazy. It’s really no big deal. All you have to do is turn them inside out (making sure the corners are pulled out completely) and wash them along with your dishes.

Words of caution:

  • Don’t boil your plastic bags. Ziploc bags have a melting point of 195 degrees. Water boils at 212 degrees. That’s too close for comfort.
  • Don’t microwave your plastic bags. See reason above.

Reusing Your Ziploc Bags

Up until I researched this post, I was simply washing and reusing my bags for anything and everything. But then I stumbled upon this article by Bryan at Cheaplander.com. Bryan actually has a strategy for reusing his Ziplocs. And, it’s a good one.

Here’s what he does: he labels his Ziploc bags with a marker, so when he reuses them he’s always putting like items back into the same bags.

Genius.

So, things like bread crumbs, dry pasta, rice, and crackers get labeled as “Dry Goods”. “Meats” are labeled to avoid cross-contamination.

Wow. So simple, and yet so smart. I’m definitely going to start doing this.

How To Dry Ziploc Bags

After you’ve washed your ziploc bags, you’ve got to dry them. This is the step that inspired me to write this post!

Like I said earlier, my house is currently up for sale. Which means, I have to keep it really clean every single day. Having a string of plastic bags hanging in the kitchen isn’t an option right now, mainly because I never know when someone will call to come see the house.

My first solution was to dry them outside in a discreet corner of the yard. But I keep forgetting they’re out there, which happened earlier this week. It rained, they fell, and got covered in dirt. Not good.

I found some great ideas online, however…

  • You can air dry your bags on the top rack of your dishwasher. Make sure they’re completely puffed out so they dry well.
  • If you don’t want to buy one of those “wooden drying racks” that are made just for drying ziplocs, why not make one yourself from scrap wood?
  • Hang your plastic bags outside on your laundry line with the rest of your laundry.
  • If you don’t like to see plastic bags hanging up to dry all over your kitchen, why not string up a line in your basement and hang them there?

Recycling Ziploc Bags

I’m putting the section on recycling plastic bags last because it should be our last option. Reducing your consumption of plastic Ziploc bags, and reusing the ones you’ve got, should always come first.

Eventually, though, your ziplocs are going to die. Especially if you put wet food in there. They get stained, they get stinky. And that’s when they need to go.

I have found conflicting information online about recycling Ziploc bags.

Case 1: Ziploc Bags Can Easily Be Recycled

On “How Stuff Works”, Craig Freudenrich, PhD, says that Ziploc bags are made from PET plastic.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE): John Rex Whinfield invented a new polymer in 1941 when he condensed ethylene glycol with terephthalic acid. The condensate was polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). PET is a thermoplastic that can be drawn into fibers (like Dacron) and films (like Mylar). It’s the main plastic in ziplock food storage bags.

Now, according to the National Association of PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), PET plastic is labeled as #1, which means that it can easily be recycled.

Case 2: Ziploc Bags Can Not Be Easily Recycled

Now, here’s information from EarthTalk, from the Environmental Magazine:

Polyvinyl chloride, commonly used in plastic pipes, shower curtains, medical tubing, vinyl dashboards, and even some baby bottle nipples, gets number 3. Like numbers 4 (wrapping films, grocery and sandwich bags, and other containers made of low-density polyethylene) and 5 (polypropylene containers used in Tupperware, among other products), few municipal recycling centers will accept it due to its very low rate of recyclability.

Final Word on Recycling Ziplocs?

I really think you’ve got to call your local recycling facility to find out if they’ll take ziploc bags. Beth over at Smart Family Tips had this advice to offer up:

I found out that most ziplocs and the like are made of LDPE (low density polyethylene) a recycleable material, but many localities aren’t capable of recycling them. I found one place (ecocycle.org) that will recycle them, but they do plastic grocery bags, too, which seems to be the key. The zippers or seals have to be cut off first.

Thanks Beth!

I’m surprised I couldn’t find an expert source to give the final answer on recycling or not recycling ziploc bags. With so many people using ziploc bags, I really thought there would be more information out there.

If any of you dear readers have information about recycling ziploc bags, I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment to share your knowledge!

I’ve been throwing mine into the recycling bin once their life is through (since my city now takes all numbers of plastic), but perhaps I should call and make sure.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Simply Stephen May 30, 2009 at 10:40 am

Heather…I am always reminded by people I meet and my readers (I’m a green blogger) of resistance by the words \I can’t be bothered\ and it pleases me to see articles and websites that show them easy ways to make change. I find that if you mention the words \time and money\ saved it helps trigger a positive change.

BTW…I twittered your article, you should add a twitter account, I have quadrupled my RSS subscription and site traffic in just one month and it is super target….easy web marketing. I’m simplystephen50 should you choose to follow.

heather May 31, 2009 at 7:09 am

Stephen,

Thanks so much for Twittering my article! I do have a Twitter account (GreenestDollar), but had to take down my Twitter This/Stumble This buttons because they were locking up the entire site for some reason. I haven’t figured out how to fix it yet!

Also, just tried to find you on Twitter and it looks like I already am following you! :)

Karen May 31, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Hi Heather,
I posted about plastic on my blog many times so this post was particularly (all of your posts are, of course) intriguing to me.

Of course, it’s always better NOT to use plastic since it’s from petroleum but they are convenient for storing wet foods. In my research on plastic and recycling, I’ve learned that you CAN recycle Ziplog bags as long as they are clean AND the hard zipper part is cut off. You can throw the baggie part with your “film” plastic bags, grocery bags, bread bags, dry cleaner bags, etc. in the local supermarket or other plastic recycling bins. I posted about Barnes and Noble and Michael’s having those bins on my blog too because I was so excited to find more and more businesses are having those bins.

Here is the link to the types of “film” plastic bags you can recycle.

http://www.plasticbagrecycling.org/01.0/

And here are my posts about plastic. Sorry for all the links…they are kinda like a series on plastic recycling.

http://ecogeneration.blogspot.com/2008/11/plastic-or-paper-neither.html
http://ecogeneration.blogspot.com/2009/01/cant-live-on-bread-alone.html
http://ecogeneration.blogspot.com/2009/01/barnes-and-noble-joins-recycling-fun.html
http://ecogeneration.blogspot.com/2009/02/michael.html

Thanks for raising this issue. I’m sure many people are still confused. I am always afraid that people will buy more plastic just because they are “recyclable” Recycling plastic is still not very efficient and not as environmentally friendly as people believe. I address that in my post mentioned above also.
To solve this dilemma on plastic/ziplog bags, I am coming out with a line of reusable organic cloth bags to go on my etsy shop. I’ll let you know when they will be listed.

Karen
http://ecogeneration.blogspot.com
http://ecogeneration.etsy.com
http://twitter.com/ecogenerationkl

heather June 1, 2009 at 8:20 am

Karen,

Wow, thanks for that great information and for posting those links! That’s wonderful that you did a whole series on plastic.

PLEASE write me and let me know when your bags come out. I’d love to go take a look!

Heather June 2, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Just wanted to pass on to your readers some other alternatives to those plastic zip loc bags as well. I am going to be trying these out and will blog about them when I do! This is a great video highlighting the options (came from http://www.reusablebags.com)….
http://www.youtube.com/v/GNbckFVoqU4&f=videos&app=youtube_gdata

heather June 3, 2009 at 7:01 am

Heather,

Thanks so much for sending that link in. I love reusablebags.com; they have really awesome products!

rhiannon June 10, 2009 at 11:58 am

I use an old stand up paper towel holder to dry my bags, since I quit using paper towels also (I bought a pack of 50 white utility towels for $15 that has lasted two years so far, comes in very handy with toddler cleaning up so many messes, I just wash them the same as my cloth diapers)

Heather June 10, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Oh, one other idea for how to dry them….use one of those bottle drying racks….of course they are themselves made of plastic…but you can dry many baggies on them at once!

Amy Korst July 7, 2009 at 12:02 pm

From Ziploc’s own website: “Yes. Ziploc® Brand bags are made of polyethylene plastic and are recyclable under the plastic recycling number 4. Check with your local recycling center to make sure they can recycle this type of plastic. We recommend washing food bags before recycling to avoid contamination issues.”

Patrick Kelly, Jr. April 25, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Good article, though the tedium from turning the bags inside out and pulling the corners out, in my experience, is almost never necessary. This is one of those little items that will make most people throw out the bag, leaving the 1% of the population to wash and reuse the bags “because it is the right thing to do.” I just swish the sponge around inside the bag in the dishwater, and rinse like any other dish and let dry on the dishrack – 10 seconds: done. I have never had a problem with cross-contamination, bags that start to smell bad, etc. The thing is that obviously these bags are not made to be easily washed, so avoid using them for storing liquids. That’s what the ridgid plastic containers are for (i.e. tupperware).

Natalie September 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Thanks for posting this! I’ve just started a blog (www.livinglessoily.com) about my journey to “live less oily” as I live in Mobile, AL and am finally confronting all the things I could be doing to “become more green.” This week in particular I have started thinking about ziplock – so glad you posted this as it will give me lots to think about and ways to change. I’m going to link your blog on my site as well so I can be sure to return and send my readers here too. Much appreciation to your comments too, they were quite helpful!

Oct September 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm

ZIPLOC® brand Bags are made from polyethylene plastic.

They are not hard to recycle. LOL. Bundle them with the grocery bags and drop off in plastic bag recycle center.

jennifer November 5, 2010 at 10:16 pm

http://www.terracycle.net
This website offers collection brigades for various items often thrown away like chip bags, cookie and candy wrappers and ziploc bags. There are specifics on who can join the Ziploc home storage brigade but it is a grreat idea for a school. My sons school is participating in 10 brigades and we are happy to see the ziplocs being recycling instead of being thrown away.

Scott Lawson January 15, 2011 at 11:04 am

I make a bag drying item out of low profile rocks and sticks. I call it a “BAGGIE ROCK”.
I use one ALL of the time and have used the SAME ONE FOR OVER 15 YEARS. IT IS FOR DRYING ANY OF THE BAGGIES LARGE AND SMALL. They can also be used for drying your kid’s plastic disposal drinking glasses (to be more sanitary and until they split) as well as other items. They promote reuse as they are VERY convenient to take from the “BAGGIE ROCK” on your counter. The dried bags are easily folded in half and then in half again (a 1/4 of the full size) for storage in the box of the new baggies- once again PROMOTING REUSE. The BAGGIE ROCKS will not blow or tip over. They are about the size of a blender-more or less and are made of ALL NATURAL MATERIALS. I make and sell them and they cost about $20.00 US.
I have some EASY washing instructions and I find washing them not to be a chore anymore. They are GREAT for any of you who are ECO FRIENDLY, thrifty, looking for unique gifts or kitchen items and like using domestically made products. Please email me if you want one or more information.

Mike, Newbury Park, Ca January 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I cringe when I hear of reusing these bags after storing certain foods, especially when they are used for thawing frozen chicken and other poultry. These bags are somewhat permeable, which means that they can pass air to some degree. This is especially true of the sandwich bags. The larger bags are thicker and somewhat less permeable. You can see this if you freeze meats in the quart bags; if you use one bag, you’ll have frost in the bag within a month. If you place the bag containing the meat in a quart bag, then place that inside another quart bag, you’ll delay the frost considerably. My own personal preference is to use the bags for wet food storage only once, then reuse for a different, dry, application, then recycle when you can.

Jon Walls September 30, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Finally, a product has been developed to use in recycling plastic storage bags. I have been trying to find a good way to do this for several years, and have designed and patented a product that is now for sale on Amazon.com and on my website. Please take a look and see what you think. It works great and saves alot of money. I haven’t purchased any new plastic bags since I started using it a few months ago.

Brandon March 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

I recommend checking out BagDri if you are interested in reusing freezer bags. Washing bags out is great until you realize you have nowhere to put them.

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