Thursday, June 4, 2009

How To Reuse and Recycle Ziploc Bags

Another great post from The Greenest Dollar


Most people use resealable plastic bags like Ziploc. I mean, they’re just so darn handy…

The problem here? Well, the problem is that they’re plastic. And the problem lies in the fact that most people use their Ziploc bags once, and then throw them away. I know…I used to do the same thing.

I stopped buying Ziploc bags months ago. I’ve been using them sparingly, and reusing them every chance I get.

The problem, at least with me, is drying the Ziploc bags. I don’t like drying them in the kitchen because a) my house in currently up for sale and b) it makes my small kitchen looked cluttered.

So, I decide to research other ways to dry my Ziplocs. Your benefit? You get a whole post about reusing and recycling plastic bags. Yippee! :)

Reuse Ziploc Bags First

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit: washing Ziploc bags can be a pain. To be quite honest, it’s one of those chores that makes me grind my teeth.

But, I suck it up and do it, and then chide myself to stop being so lazy. It’s really no big deal. All you have to do is turn them inside out (making sure the corners are pulled out completely) and wash them along with your dishes.

Words of caution:

  • Don’t boil your plastic bags. Ziploc bags have a melting point of 195 degrees. Water boils at 212 degrees. That’s too close for comfort.
  • Don’t microwave your plastic bags. See reason above.

Reusing Your Ziploc Bags

Up until I researched this post, I was simply washing and reusing my bags for anything and everything. But then I stumbled upon this article by Bryan at Bryan actually has a strategy for reusing his Ziplocs. And, it’s a good one.

Here’s what he does: he labels his Ziploc bags with a marker, so when he reuses them he’s always putting like items back into the same bags.


So, things like bread crumbs, dry pasta, rice, and crackers get labeled as “Dry Goods”. “Meats” are labeled to avoid cross-contamination.

Wow. So simple, and yet so smart. I’m definitely going to start doing this.

How To Dry Ziploc Bags

After you’ve washed your ziploc bags, you’ve got to dry them. This is the step that inspired me to write this post!

Like I said earlier, my house is currently up for sale. Which means, I have to keep it really clean every single day. Having a string of plastic bags hanging in the kitchen isn’t an option right now, mainly because I never know when someone will call to come see the house.

My first solution was to dry them outside in a discreet corner of the yard. But I keep forgetting they’re out there, which happened earlier this week. It rained, they fell, and got covered in dirt. Not good.

I found some great ideas online, however…

  • You can air dry your bags on the top rack of your dishwasher. Make sure they’re completely puffed out so they dry well.
  • If you don’t want to buy one of those “wooden drying racks” that are made just for drying ziplocs, why not make one yourself from scrap wood?
  • Hang your plastic bags outside on your laundry line with the rest of your laundry.
  • If you don’t like to see plastic bags hanging up to dry all over your kitchen, why not string up a line in our basement and hang them there?

Recycling Ziploc Bags

I’m putting the section on recycling plastic bags last because it should be our last option. Reducing your consumption of plastic Ziploc bags, and reusing the ones you’ve got, should always come first.

Eventually, though, your ziplocs are going to die. Especially if you put wet food in there. They get stained, they get stinky. And that’s when they need to go.

I have found conflicting information online about recycling Ziploc bags.

Case 1: Ziploc Bags Can Easily Be Recycled

On “How Stuff Works”, Craig Freudenrich, PhD, says that Ziploc bags are made from PET plastic.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE): John Rex Whinfield invented a new polymer in 1941 when he condensed ethylene glycol with terephthalic acid. The condensate was polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). PET is a thermoplastic that can be drawn into fibers (like Dacron) and films (like Mylar). It’s the main plastic in ziplock food storage bags.

Now, according to the National Association of PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), PET plastic is labeled as #1, which means that it can easily be recycled.

Case 2: Ziploc Bags Can Not Be Easily Recycled

Now, here’s information from EarthTalk, from the Environmental Magazine:

Polyvinyl chloride, commonly used in plastic pipes, shower curtains, medical tubing, vinyl dashboards, and even some baby bottle nipples, gets number 3. Like numbers 4 (wrapping films, grocery and sandwich bags, and other containers made of low-density polyethylene) and 5 (polypropylene containers used in Tupperware, among other products), few municipal recycling centers will accept it due to its very low rate of recyclability.

Final Word on Recycling Ziplocs?

I really think you’ve got to call your local recycling facility to find out if they’ll take ziploc bags. Beth over at Smart Family Tips had this advice to offer up:

I found out that most ziplocs and the like are made of LDPE (low density polyethylene) a recycleable material, but many localities aren’t capable of recycling them. I found one place ( that will recycle them, but they do plastic grocery bags, too, which seems to be the key. The zippers or seals have to be cut off first.

Thanks Beth!

I’m surprised I couldn’t find an expert source to give the final answer on recycling or not recycling ziploc bags. With so many people using ziploc bags, I really thought there would be more information out there.

If any of you dear readers have information about recycling ziploc bags, I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment to share your knowledge!

I’ve been throwing mine into the recycling bin once their life is through (since my city now takes all numbers of plastic), but perhaps I should call and make sure.

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  1. my city will take number 3 and 4 plastic (they won't take 5) so i do recycle my ziploc bags when i'm done with them. i particularly don't like to reuse bags that have been used to store meats so those get rinsed and recycled after the first use.

  2. I agree about reusing plastic bags that store meats. Since it's really hard to clean those, I try to use thme for non-food items, such as dirty diapers, etc.

  3. I reuse my bags for like items. I haven't washed and dried any yet, but I will reuse them for diapers, too.
    great post

  4. Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. By the way, I love your user name. ;-)