Plastic Bag Recycling

Plastic bags, while a great convenience and commonly used at the grocery store, are becoming more and more detrimental to the environment. The City of Victorville’s Environmental Programs Division wants to encourage residents to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags as much as possible, to decrease the problems they cause our environment.
Here are just some of the ways plastic bags impact the environment:

  • Plastic bags are a major, road-side litter problem in the City of Victorville and the High Desert.  They catch on desert plants and fences, creating visual blight.  They are difficult to clean up, and if they’ve been out in the elements for long, they shred into hundreds of small pieces, making removal even more difficult.
  • Approximately 100 billion plastic shopping bags are used in the United States every year. It would take 12 million barrels of oil to make that many plastic bags.
  • Plastic bags that become litter pose a danger to native wildlife and domestic animals which can get caught in them and/or try to eat them due to the odor of food residue.
  • Plastic bags can clog storm drains and sewer lines, creating backups and possible flooding, and necessitating removal/unclogging. 
  • Plastic bags that get buried in landfills may take up to 1,000 years to break down.

So, what can you do to alleviate the problem? Following are tips and resources to help you minimize the environmental impact of plastic bag usage.

  1. REDUCE:  Avoid getting and using plastic bags.  If you are buying only a few items, just say, “No bag, please!”  If you are doing a major shopping trip, then use a reusable shopping bag for groceries and incidentals.  Reusable bags can be purchased for a small cost (usually less than $1.00 each) at grocery stores, household goods stores, and drugs stores.
  2. REUSE:  If you do receive plastic grocery bags during your shopping trip, put them to good use!  Reuse them around the house as trash can liners or disposal bags for cat litter or animal waste.
  3. RECYCLE:  If you accumulate more bags than you can reuse at home, then take the extras back  to the store for recycling. Most grocery stores, department stores, and variety stores such as Walmart have a recycling bin near the entrance for used plastic grocery bags.  Note:  You can also recycle the plastic bags that newspapers are delivered in.

    What about Curbside Recycling?  Please DO NOT place plastic bags in your curbside recycling cart.  The City’s Materials Recovery Facility is not intended to process plastic bags.  The bags clog up equipment and get mixed in with paper.  Plastic bags are recycled most efficiently by taking them back to the store.  That way, they can be handled in bulk and baled up with cardboard to be shipped back to regional distribution centers.  So please, return your extra plastic bags to the grocery store if you intend to recycle them.

Are Stores Required To Take Back Plastic Bags For Recycling?  In July 2007, California law, AB 2449, went into effect.  It requires certain grocery stores and retail pharmacies with more than 10,000 square feet of retail space to provide at-store recycling programs for plastic carryout bags. In addition, the Plastic Bag Recycling Act of 2006 requires that certain grocers and pharmacies provide bins for the collection of plastic bags brought back by customers for recycling. Grocery stores and retail pharmacies are responsible for the collection, transportation and recycling of plastic carryout bags returned to their stores.


CAW-Californians Against Waste:
CalRecycle - California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.