If You Live in OB or Point Loma, Where Do Recycled Plastic Bags Go?

by on August 10, 2015 · 6 comments

in California, Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, History, Ocean Beach

plastic bag windBy Lois Lane

Recycling plastic bags should not be this hard.

Plastic bag cvs - bhIf you get a grocery bag, it is likely to have printed on it “Please return to a participating store for recycling.”

This may not mean the store where you got it.   Not governed by local regulations, recycling locations are left to individual businesses.   Plastic bags are designed to be confusing.

As a reminder, you can recycle plastic bags:

  •  CVS in Ocean Beach on Cable Street.  This is a CVS program, utilizing the G2 (Go Green) process.  These are gathered in bale-sized boxes and sent to the Go Green recycler via UPS.  The customer recycling bin is just inside the front door.
  • Stumps, on Voltaire Street and close to Ocean Beach.  Their plastic bags are recycled via the wholesale vendor.  When the truck drops off the house brand, they pick up the bag of recycled bags, and return it to the warehouse, where they are baled and sent to a recycler. After that, you have a choice of :
  • Ralphs,
  • Target,
  • or Vons.

Remember: Plastic bags do NOT go in the blue bins with other city recycling. 

plastic bag wallmtFor someone who is on the receiving end, what to do with the plastic bag in hand?

The Plastic Bag Challenge:  For a week, pay attention to every plastic bag that you touch – including the liner in the cereal box, the newspaper sleeve, and the pervasive grocery bags.

You will be astonished at the number.

In the United States, consumers use more than 300 bags per year. For comparison, in other countries, some  sample numbers are:   Denmark: 4, Ireland: 18, Germany: 65.

If there is print on the bag, it is likely to contain a warning about suffocation dangers for children.  This is required by law.

plastic bags childwarnNothing requires it to be labelled as recyclable or not.

Most heavy duty plastic bags are recyclable.  Film, such as dry cleaning bags and some vegetable bags may not be recyclable.  Stumps gets credit for using recyclable plastic bag for vegetables, while most grocery stores do not.  These are marked HDPE 2, which is a type of plastic, and has no relationship to recyclability.

Ralphs is one of the strongest presences in the recycling community.  They tell us:

“This bag contains a minimum of 25% recycled material.”  

They then add –

“Our Environmental Promise – Plastic bags returned to this store will be recycled into new plastic bags .”

The bag carries the triangular marking:  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Most other bags have dropped the “Reduce” part of the slogan.

plastic bag ban logoBottom line:  If it is printed with some form of “recyclable,” it probably is. A large assortment of bags are actually recyclable, such as newspaper bags, but it is uncertain as to which businesses are actually set up to take cereal box liners.  For more information or to locate a Bag-2-Bag® program visit here or here.

The question came up – do these recycled bags make a trip across the ocean to China, where they are reincarnated as newly-minted plastic bags and returned to the United States? The answer seems to be NO.

They do get shipped to plastic material vendors, and may indeed wind up on new bags, or in your Trex wood-look-alike deck boards. Target, Ralphs, and CVS all process through different vendors, but the bags do indeed seem to be recycled.  The old reuse and refuse ideas are still the most efficient.

Checking with Colleen Dietzel from The Green Store, there is no clear city policy.  She reminds us that ultimate goal of legal control and bans on plastic grocery bags is still ahead.  In the meantime, be aware, as you purchase items, drink a soda through a straw, or eat a container of yoghurt – plastic is one constant in the everyday life of the planet as well as your own.

plastic bag howto


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sammy August 10, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Rite-Aid Recycles Plastic Bags too
Ralph’s on Sports Arena recycles plastic bags too


Lois Lane August 11, 2015 at 9:40 am

Ralph’s is identified in the article as a major plastic bag recycler. I also checked with the OB Mainstreet Assn. to see if I had missed anybody. At the time I visited Rite-Aide they did not have a recycling bin and staff replied that they did not have a plastic bag recycling program. I will double check and post. There was certainly no intention of choosing sides between Rite-Aide and CVS.


Val August 11, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Back a few years ago, I worked at Henry’s. We accepted plastic bags and said we were recycling them. BUT we had NO program for it and once the customer would give them to us (the employees) they were promptly thrown into the dumpster. Sad but true. Not sure what happens over there now a days, but just wanted to throw my 2¢ out there.


The Green Store August 12, 2015 at 11:34 am

Great reporting on plastic bag recycling. The majority of people try to be conscientious about recycling their plastic bag but unfortunately there are some people who are not. Some people just litter or some are not careful when they dispose of their bags in the trash and it ends up in the alley and eventually in the storm drain and finally in our oceans. Taking a quote from Surfrider ” Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins, and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life”. For these reasons I support a plastic bag ban. I recommend people support our local groups like Surfrider, Environmnent California, SD Coastkeeper, Greenpeace and Sierra Club that are suppoting a SD City ban on plastic bags. Call Marti Emerald’s office (she supports a ban) and ask what we can do to help. Call Mayor Faulconer’s office and ask him why they need 6 more months of studies when major cities across this country and over 100 cities in California already have passed Plastic Bag Bans.

Colleen Dietzel
The Green Store


Roger August 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm

I agree with Colleen, great report on plastic bag recycling.

There are 4R’s in priority order; Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. ?

Although recycling does help to conserve resources and reduce waste, it is important to remember that there are economic and environmental costs associated with waste collection and recycling. There’s also the impact of production and transportation of plastic bags too – they are made from a non-renewable resource. And of course the impact on land, in our ocean and wildlife. For this reason, recycling should only be considered for waste which cannot be refused, reduced or reused. And for plastic bags, refusing is the best option! :)

I have a dog and haven’t used a plastic checkout bag or purchased plastic “poop” bags for many years. Instead, I reuse all the bags that come with other purchases (although I try to reduce these as well); bread bags, cereal bags, paper bags, etc. If you pay close attention you will find all the doggie bags you need without ever using a plastic check out bag again.


Emile Oharroll September 2, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Point Loma Seafood located on the Harbor off of Emerson Street serves up great fresh fish and excellent views. Cabrillo National Monument and lighthouse at the west end of the peninsula offers sweeping views of the Pacific and San Diego’s beautiful skyline.


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