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Plastic Bag Recycling

It's always best to bring your own reusable bag and avoid plastic altogether. If you have clean plastic bags, please bring them back to the grocery store.

Collection at large stores is California law!

Before we get into recycling, remember that reusable bags are the best. We used over 100 billion plastic shopping bags in the US alone in 2008. If everyone used a reusable bag each time they shopped, we could reduce this number dramatically.

Secondly, if you have clean plastic bags, please bring them back to the grocery store. This gives them the best chance to be recycled.

Are plastic bags accepted in the blue bin?

Unfortunately, no. Plastic bags are currently not recyclable. Over the years, the County and its partner cities have tried to ensure that any item with market value could be placed in the recycling containers for both businesses and residents. In the past, there has been a market for mixed film plastics, including plastic bags.

In recent years, however, we have been unable to find a market for this material. Industry leaders believe that this will continue for the next several years.

Plastic Bags Are Trash Flyer JPG

Download our new flyer in English and Spanish.

Additionally, plastic bags in your blue recycling container are problematic because they tangle up with other materials. Plastic bags are inherently difficult to keep free of contaminants and to pull out of the recycling without snagging something else along with them. It is because of these properties that they are the biggest cause of contaminants in our commingled recycling.

We are now asking Santa Barbara County residents to place dirty plastic bags and other film plastics in the trash (clean plastic bags should be taken back to the grocery store). Please note that some of our outreach materials, including stickers and posters, list film plastics and plastic bags as acceptable. We're in the process of updating them.

If you have any questions on this topic, please feel free to contact our Project Leader, Carlyle Johnston.

California's Plastic Bag Recycling Law

AB 2449, passed in 2006, requires all grocery stores and large retailers to accept plastic carryout bags for recycling. The collection kiosks should be placed where customers can easily see and use them. Read more about this law on CalRecycle's website.

The following types of bags are collected at grocery stores:

  • Grocery bags
  • Bread bags
  • Retail bags (hard plastic handles removed)
  • Newspaper bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • All clear bags labeled #2 and #4

All bags must be clean, dry, and free of residue.

If your business collects bags, please contact us and we'll include you in future listings on our site.

Why do people dislike plastic bags?

Plastic bags are often the target of environmental movements because they are so lightweight, easily carried by the wind, easily eaten by animals, and do not degrade naturally. They are a permanent object made for only minutes of use.

In 2015 the County passed a Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance for the unincorporated areas of the county, and California's Ban on Single-Use Carryout Bags went into effect in late 2016.

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