Recycling plastic grocery bags causing big problems at recycling centers

Posted at 6:01 PM, Apr 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-21 06:04:45-04

You might think you're doing the right thing by recycling plastic grocery bags but they are actually causing big problems at recycling centers. Plus, it could wind up costing you.

Mercedes Millan's car is full of the pesky plastic bags. They are bunched up with no purpose, day after day.  Millan doesn't recycle the bags but says she's not exactly sure why they don't belong in her green bin.

This so called recycling confusion, where customers aren't sure what exactly is recyclable, is precisely why Tampa, St. Petersburg, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties are teaming up for the first time. They are launching an information campaign.

Travis Barnes, a recycling coordinator with Hillsborough County, tells ABC Action News the bay, and the nation as a whole, is facing a serious recycling contamination problem.

"Plastic bags in particular wrap up on the sorting equipment and cause us to shut down the entire line," he said.

Then staff have to crawl in the machines and cut out the bags. That not only poses a safety hazard but also completely stops the sorting process. If the machines breaks, the costly repairs could trickle down to higher prices on your bill.

"When people are recycling, they are wanting to do the right thing but we need to make sure they are doing it correctly," said Barnes.

Barnes is leading the effort in making this message crystal clear.

"We've got radio ads," he said, "We've got digital billboards, print advertisements and new tv commercial."

"This is a good idea," said Millan, "Then everyone knows what exactly they have to do."

Instead of tossing the bags in the trash or incorrectly in the recycling bin you can take them to your local grocery store. A few of them, like Publix, have bins specifically made to reuse them.