By Mary Mazzoni on Jan 12, 2012

Madison, Wis. to Recycle Plastic Bags Curbside

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While many cities are banning plastic bags, Madison, Wis. is taking a different approach to keeping this common waste product out of landfills. Photo: Flickr/velkr0

Starting this year, Madison, Wis. residents will be able to recycle plastic shopping bags curbside, according to the city’s Streets Division.

Madison’s recycling program accepts plastic grocery, produce and newspaper bags. Water softener salt bags, bread bags and other plastic bags marked as #2 plastic (HDPE) or #4 plastic (LLDPE) can also be recycled, along with heavier plastic film such as the clear wrapping from around mattresses and appliances, the city said.

While a growing number of cities are slapping fees on plastic bags or banning them outright, Madison officials said that providing a more convenient recycling option for residents can be just as effective in keeping bags out of landfills.

With the addition of bags to the curbside program, Madison will be removing all Streets Division-sponsored drop-off bins – which cost the city about $17,800 per year to operate, said George Dreckmann, the city’s recycling coordinator. Most area supermarkets will still operate plastic bag drop-off collection.

So, why don’t more cities recycle bags curbside? The answer is simple – loose plastic bags can mean big trouble for recyclers. Bags often become tangled in sorting equipment and conveyer belts at processing facilities, causing costly delays and repairs.

To combat the problem, the city is asking residents to place their bags inside a larger plastic bag and tie it shut before tossing into the recycling cart. The solution may sound basic. But if successful, other cities that have been shying away from plastic bag recycling may take notice.

READ: More Cities Explore Plastic Bag Bans

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