Solid Waste & Recycling


Website helps with plastic bag recycling

The Canadian plastics industry is asking consumers across the country to reuse and recycle their plastic shopping b...

The Canadian plastics industry is asking consumers across the country to reuse and recycle their plastic shopping bags, and has set up a website to encourage them to do so.

“These bags are much too valuable a resource to be thrown out after a single use,” says Paul van der Werf, Municipal Representative for the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) in Ontario.

Many plastic shopping bags are re-used. According to a new public opinion poll conducted by Decima Research, 90 per cent of Canadians say they re-use these bags for a variety of purposes (e.g., lunch bags, liners for waste containers, to pick up after pets, etc.).

“Re-use extends the life of the bags, and this has a positive environmental impact,” van der Werf explains. “What we’re after are the bags that are not being re-used. We’re asking people not to throw them out. If you’re not going to re-use them, recycle them,” says van der Werf.

But while the Decima poll shows an eagerness on the part of residents to recycle — with more than 93 per cent in favour of recycling their plastic shopping bags — recovery rates remain low and many people are unsure of how or where to recycle their bags.

In response, the industry has launched a website — — which offers practical and helpful consumer information on bag recycling. For example, visitors can learn the four steps to properly preparing bags for recycling. They can check to see if their municipality provides curbside collection, and find the nearest retail stores that have bag take-back programs.

“Together, we can make a difference in improving the recycling rate of empty bags,” van der Werf notes. “The industry wants to help by raising awareness and providing information and practical tools, such as this consumer website.”

The number of plastic recycling businesses in North America has nearly tripled over the past several years, and whole new product categories are emerging that use recycled plastic shopping bags.

“We want to encourage wise use through reuse, reduction and of course recycling. At the end of their life cycle, plastic shopping bags can be made into a range of exciting new products,” notes van der Werf.

For example, bags are now being used in the manufacture of new bags, as well as railway ties, traffic cones, decking and patio furniture. The plastic composite lumber market is growing at a rate of 14 per cent per year, and it is expected to be a U.S. $1.4-billion industry by 2007.

The Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) is a not-for-profit organization representing the domestic plastics industry. Its 450 members include resin suppliers, mold and machinery equipment manufacturers, processors, re-processors, brokers, and recyclers.

Some of the key features of the site include:

a database of municipalities that collect plastic bags in either curbside or depot systems,

a database of retail stores that collect plastic bags for recycling (users need simply enter the first three letters of their postal code to find the store closest to them);

a best practices guide for at-store recycling of plastic bags that walks the retailer through all of the steps of setting up a recycling program for plastic bags;

a ready-made poster on the 10 proper bagging techniques for grocery stores;

other resources, such as print ads that can be customized for individual municipalities.

For more information, visit

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