Plastic bags in sorting centres: a plague!

Plastic bags in sorting centres

If you ask a recycling manager what his main concern is, the answer is almost always “plastic bags in sorting centres”.

A plastic bag carelessly thrown into the blue bin usually becomes a nightmare for sorting center machines, in addition to being the main contaminant of other materials, thus harming the quality of recycling paper and cardboard, in particular.
Plastic bags in sorting centres: enemy number one

The problem of plastic bags in sorting centres is not new, it was already identified in 2013 in a study by the Centre de recherche industrielle du Québec (CRIQ), ordered by Recy-Québec.

Plastic bags interfere with the identification of other recyclable materials and contaminate them. In addition, they must be removed by hand from the sorting lines, making them very labor-intensive and difficult to capture.

Plastic bags can also pose a hazard to sorting centre equipment. The plastic film can become entangled in the machines, wrap around the separators, and thus cause breaks and slowdowns in the operations.

Example of problems with plastic bags in sorting centres:

  • If not removed, plastic bags wrap recycling equipment and quickly block processing screens.
  • When too many bags are jammed, equipment must be shut down until it is cut manually.
  • Plastic bags easily escape from bins, trucks and landfills, polluting land and waterways.
What to do with plastic bags?
  • Refuse them

The best thing to do for plastics is to reduce them at the source. This can be done, for example by refusing single-use bags at retail checkouts and always carrying reusable bags.

  • Reuse them

Ideally, we should avoid single-use plastic bags and plastic films. Otherwise, we should reuse them as much as possible.

Examples of reuse include:

  • Keep and reuse your plastic bags when you go to the market and buy fruits or vegetables in bulk. This way, your shopping trolley stays clean.
  • Keep your fresh herbs (such as parsley and coriander), placing the ends of the herbs in a large glass with water, then tying a plastic bag around the top of the bouquet, before putting them in the refrigerator. Nothing better to retain moisture and prevent your herbs from drying out!
  • Use bags for small garbage cans like those in the bathroom. Store excess bags with other garbage bags and use them as needed.
Plastic bags
  • Gather them, before putting them in the bin

Putting all your plastic bags and film in a single, clear, tied plastic bag before putting them in the recycling bin will greatly facilitate their identification at sorting centres, and will prevent contamination of other materials.

Examples of bags and film to be grouped in a single bag:

  • Grocery bag
  • Shopping bag
  • Bag of milk and bread
  • Ziploc sandwich bag
  • Packaging for cheese
  • Clean plastic wrap
  • Bubble wrap
  • Publisac bag (without flyers) …
Beware, biodegradable bags do not go to the bin!
Some bags are identified as oxobiodegradable or degradable. They are made of conventional plastic to which an additive has been added. This additive is a contaminant for recycling, so don’t put them in the blue bin or the brown bin. However, oxobiodegradable or degradable bags make good garbage bags in second life!
Progresses, but not enough
A ban on the distribution of plastic shopping bags in retail stores, including grocery stores, in all boroughs of Montreal, coming into force on September 27, will undoubtedly help to combat the plague of plastic bags in sorting centres.
However, at Ricova, we think we need to do more, because beyond the problems in the sorting centres, the issue is above all environmental. Do we need to remember that if it ends up in the wild, a plastic bag will take more than 400 years before disappearing completely? Ricova wants governments to go further and is calling for a general ban on bags, as the city of Brossard did in 2016.
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Founded in 2001, Ricova is the most fully integrated Quebec company for its collection, sorting and recycling services for residual and recyclable materials. Recyclable and organic materials represent more than 70% of the materials it collects and transports in Quebec. Thanks to more than 20 years of experience in the field, Ricova is concerned about protecting the environment by supporting the most ecological solutions that allow it to optimize its operations and obtain more value for recycled materials.
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