OneSTL, a collaboration to encourage and support greater sustainability across the eight-county St. Louis region, is launching a new campaign, Return Plastic Bags and Wraps, to raise consumer awareness about the importance of returning plastic bags and wraps to local grocers and retailers and keeping these items out of the single-stream recycling process.

Specially marked bins with informational signage will be located at local Schnucks stores, urging shoppers to return their plastic bags and wraps to these and other bins, as well as to local recycling centers, and to keep plastic bags and wraps out of their single-stream-recycling bins.

“We are urging shoppers to bring their plastic bags and wraps back to their local grocers and retailers because these items are the No. 1 contaminant in the single-stream recycling process,” said Elysia Musumeci, sustainability outreach and education coordinator with Brightside St. Louis. “Simply put, including plastic bags and wraps with approved single-stream-recycling items creates downtime, danger, and more waste.”

Downtime: When plastic bags and wraps end up at recycling centers, they can jam equipment and stop the sorting process, resulting in the loss of up to five hours of production time per day and increased processing costs.

Danger: When bags get caught in sorting machines, workers often must untangle these obstructions by hand. The process of clearing jammed equipment can be incredibly dangerous, as workers often have to climb into the machinery to remove the obstructions.

More Waste: When plastic bags and wraps are mixed among approved recyclable items, they divert good recyclables away from processing centers — and these good recyclable items end up in the landfill.

The instructional signage that accompanies OneSTL’s specially marked bins outlines the simple plastic-bag/wrap recycling process (From the store, to your home, then back to the store) and lists approved items to return to the bins, including:

  • Grocery and retail bags
  • Clean produce and bread bags
  • Wraps from toilet paper, paper towels, and cases of water
  • Newspaper sleeves
  • Clean zip-top food-storage bags
  • Bubble wrap and air packing pillows (deflated)
  • Dry cleaning bags

To further help reduce contamination, the organization is reminding residents of the six acceptable items suitable for recycling: paper and flattened cardboard, plastic bottles and containers, glass bottles and jars, metal food and beverage cans, and food and beverage cartons. Ideally, recycled items are always empty, clean, and dry. A full list of recyclable items can be can be found on OneSTL’s website. For additional help determining what to recycle, visit STL City Recycles and use the searchable database of recyclable items.

“Returning plastic bags and wraps to the proper place is a simple thing we can all do to help the environment,” Musumeci said. “It’s a small step that makes a huge difference.”