Plastics Recycling 101

recyclable plastics


“Plastics make it possible” is a phrase touted by the American Chemistry Council, yet plastics are often viewed as something to be either shunned or banned. So which is it? The answer is: both. While there are many important and even life-saving uses for plastics, the abundance of non-essential plastics is what we are working to reduce.

So what’s the big deal about plastics? Most plastics are produced from petrochemicals, which are a finite resource. Much of the plastics surrounding us, due to poor product planning or packaging, cannot be recycled, thus ending up in the landfill.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area approximately twice the size of Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is made mostly of plastics that have floated there from land and ships. Any plastics in the nature can be a great hazard to marine and mammal life.

In addition, it takes a long time for any plastics to decompose – a plastic water bottle, for example, takes about 450 years to decompose. Do you really want your disposable water bottle to be around that long? The answer is undoubtedly “No!”, so better recycle it! Here’s how:


  • Water, soda and juice bottles (6 oz. or larger)
  • Tubs, like yogurt and butter tubs (6 oz. or larger)
  • Jugs, like milk and juice jugs
  • Rigid plastic plant pots (4” or larger)
  • Plastic buckets (5 gallon or less)



  • Clamshell containers, the kind used for produce, bakery items, or “to-go” foods
  • Blister packaging, the kind used around electronics or toys (that’s sometimes impossible to open!)
  • Plastic drink cups
  • Plastic bags (see below where you can, though)
  • Toys
  • Bottle & tub lids
  • Cups, plates, flatware
  • Foam
  • Biodegradable plastics



  • Just because a plastic item has the recycling logo on it doesn’t mean it’s recyclable.
  • Adding non-recyclable items to your recycling bin makes it more costly for either you or the company or both to recycle. They may also damage the equipment used to sort recyclables.
  • DO NOT recycle plastic containers with hazardous products or motor oil.



Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about blister packaging or clamshell containers, besides reuse them, or not buy or accept them in the first place. As for the plastic bags, there are some options. In addition to plastic grocery bags, drop-off recycling stations in most grocery stores will also accept these plastics:

  • Ziploc® Bags (clean and dry)
  • Newspaper bags
  • Dry-cleaning bags
  • Produce bags
  • Bread bags
  • Plastic cereal box liners
  • Toilet paper, napkin, diaper and paper-towel wraps
  • Case wraps (water bottles, snacks, etc.)
  • Plastic shipping envelopes (remove labels)
  • Tyvek (no glue, labels, other packaging)
  • Furniture and electronic wraps

Please recycle only clean, dry plastic bags and film. Remove receipts or any other items from bags.

SARABELLA UPCYCLED offers a local upcycling option for (see their link below):

  • Vinyl banners
  • Newspaper bags
  • Colorful, thicker plastic bags (the kind you get from a downtown or mall shop)




No Comments

  1. mary on October 31, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    please put a link to forward this list to friends (or have I missed it…)

    • Enviro on November 3, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks for commenting Mary – I don’t have the capability on this website to include a “forward” link like I do in my emails, however you can always share it via Facebook (click on the Facebook icon at the bottom of the blog post) or through email by copying the link and including it in your email. Here it is:
      Please share with your friends!

  2. Kathi on October 23, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    What actually happens with the “other” plastics you drop of at the grocery store? Does it actually get recycled? Or does it end up in the landfill? Or a little of both?

    I am all for reducing in the first place, but I also want to be realistic about what is or can be recycled vs. what ends up in the landfill.

    • Ani Kasch on October 31, 2019 at 10:23 am

      Hi Kathi,

      Thanks for the question! Recycling markets are subject to change based on the demand for the material. Sometimes materials flood the market and overwhelm those who use it. The plastic film that is recycled at the grocery store gets turned into Trex decking and certain lines of outdoor furniture — I’m sure you’ve seen the Adirondak chairs? You can find out exactly what is accepted at these locations at It is my understanding that these companies couldn’t exist without the plastic film material. However, as I mentioned above, sometimes there is more material available in the market than demand for the resulting product and it is possible that some of the plastic film does not end up getting recycled.

      My two cents is this:
      –If you can, avoid bringing plastic film of any kind home with you. (I know this is hard, but when you start to pay attention, sometimes there are ways to cut down.)
      –If you bring it home, is there a way you can reuse it? (I rinse and reuse my produce bags, plastic ziplocks, and bread bags as I can.)
      –It is better to put it in the plastic film recycling in anticipation of it getting recycled than to toss it in the trash. At least then there is a chance of an afterlife.

  3. Dottie on October 24, 2019 at 11:02 am

    Need to clarify:
    I have items that are labeled
    100% recycled PET carton (egg carton) and
    Tetra Pak Recyclable (a cococut water carton)
    I can’t figure out if these things are accepted in Bend. There is a website to locate where recycled cartons are accepted, and Bend is not listed as one of them. Is this true?
    Thanks for your help.

    • Ani Kasch on October 31, 2019 at 10:07 am

      Thanks for the question, Dottie! Neither the plastic egg carton nor the tetrapak are recyclable in Deschutes County. There are some communities in Oregon that accept cartons and tetrapaks for recycling, but we aren’t one of them. The reason is that those products are multi-layered materials that are difficult to separate and therefore costly to recycle. The best thing you can do is to avoid buying things that come in tetrapaks and cartons when you can!

  4. Dottie on October 24, 2019 at 11:45 am

    In addition, I’ve received a package with a lot of a box liner made with recycled plastic bottles (PET) that they say is recyclable. I just want to check this is what you are referring to when you say “just because it says it can be recycled doesn’t mean it can be..” Is it true that it just can’t be recycled here in Bend….yet.? The company this comes from wants feedback on this lining, and I’d like to tell them what the situation in Bend is regarding PET.
    I did talk to Bend Recycling on 27th, and they didn’t know what I was talking about…..

    • Ani Kasch on October 31, 2019 at 10:09 am

      Can you send a photo of the item you are talking about or stop by The Environmental Center to show me? I might be able to help you out that way. The tough thing about recycling is that every community does it a little bit differently.

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