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[greenyes] Re: Plastic bag recycling

Mr. Vatuna,

I, and I'm sure numerous other people, are grateful for your email post. I think many people who know (or are being told) chemistry is important are simply frustrated by the inability to gain clarity on the plastic bag/film recycling process. Many of us who have seen the variety of plastic film that gets placed in the Wal-M.A.R.T. collection containers are left scratching our heads because we know (or are told) that, at least where it concerns rigid plastic containers, #2 (HDPE) and #4 (LDPE) cannot be mixed to make more rigid plastic beverage containers etc, furthermore, that the blow injected cannot be recycled with the form molded. I have sent several querries to the Wal-M.A.R.T. main office in Bentonville, AR (nearly a stone's throw from where I live) asking for clarity on what type (APC #s) of plastic bags/film they hope to collect from their customers - is it just Wal-M.A.R.T. shopping bags (HDPE) or is it any plastic bag (including the LDPE)?... And if it's a mix is Wal-M.A.R.T. sure that each type of plastic film collected is being recycled rather than burned or landfilled. I've yet to receive what I would call an informed answer. Perhaps this is because the people at Wal-M.A.R.T. don't know where the stuff goes or how it's dealt with or maybe they do and they don't want the public to know. I/we can only guess. Meanwhile "chemistry IS important."

Your email begins to clear up some persistent nagging questions. I've still one big one. Where do Wal-M.A.R.T.'s collected plastic bags (all densities) go? AERT said it's not them and that the mixed colors are a very significant limiting factor. Is it you guys? If not, then I'm left wondering if ALL the types of plastic bags that end up in those green-and-white plastic bag recycling boxes truly are being recycled as the collecting boxes suggest - I'm left wondering in part got it...chemistry matters! And, in part because the term recycling is unfortunately being confused with incineration.

Are you aware of any articles in the popular trade journals that describe the plastic bag recycling process? Certainly would make for an interesting read.

Best Regards and Happy Holidays

Stephan Pollard


There are a lot of misnomers, innuendos and misunderstandings going around about plastic bag recycling. Not being a resin producer, bag manufacturer, nor converter, we can speak to you as a pure recycler. Since we turn the used plastic bags into another useable product, I can also speak to you as a manufacturer. Plastic is not Plastic. There are different polymers that have different characteristics. Some can be interchangeable, and some cannot. In our case, all Polyethylene film and bags that we see are relatively close in the temperature range at which they melt. We do see quite a range of densities (i.e.. Low Density, Medium Density and High Density), but those also do not cause us a problem in reprocessing these bags into our products. Growing to the point where we consume nearly 300 million pounds of polyethylene a year, we certainly would have no problem in recycling all of the bags Wal-Mart could collect for recycling. Frankly, we get dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, and even retail store bags mixed in with Wal-Mart bags all the time. Clear bags and light colored bags are a lot easier for us to use, but we can use them all. I also believe that a considerable number of bag manufacturers may be using a blend of different densities to enhance bag performance. So for us, it's not an issue. We'll recycle all we can get. Mike Vatuna Director of Bulk Material Trex Corporation Inc.

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