As Dexter finished the last portion of another bag of dog food, I wondered if these bags could be recycled? Grocery stores have receptacles for previously used, but clean, grocery bags, and our county runs curbside blue bin collection, but neither of these places takes pet food bags. That got me curious, what are pet food bags made from? According to the Purina How To Recycle website, the ProPlan bags that contain Dexter’s food are made from woven #5 polypropylene plastic.
Reading further into the site, there are a number of other types of packaging used to manufacture pet food bags; non-woven plastic (“#7 mixed materials”), lined paper (the ones with a thin coating of plastic on the inside), and unlined paper (similar to a paper lunch bag).
Sadly, the lined paper bags must go to trash because they cannot be broken down in to their source components easily. Clean, unlined pet food bags can go into your curbside blue bin with newspapers and other paper. The most rare types of plastic accepted in curbside programs are non-rigid #5 and #7 plastics.
Surely something can be done about all the waste created from these empty bags!
There are a few resources online which give step-by-step instructions for creating stylish tote bags, and purses, but one can only use so many totes and purses. Perhaps you could consider starting an Etsy store to sell them. For those of us who are less crafty, what alternatives do we have?
Wellness Pet Food has partnered with TerraCycle to offer a free-to-consumer recycling program where you can bundle empty bags and TerraCycle will shred and melt the plastic which can be reformed into new products. That is the ultimate goal I am trying to achieve; put my plastic back into the cycle and prevent the need to use raw materials. Kudos to Wellness Pet Food, but they won’t accept my Purina bags. So whats next?
Doing more research into #5 woven polypropylene (PP), I found that large shipping bags (FIBC – Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers) are made from the same material. There are just a handful of FIBC recycling companies across the United States, and they don’t typically accept small shipments of a small number of items – they cater mainly to food processors, farms, and shipping companies who process hundreds at a time.
The process of recycling FIBC bags mirrors that of TerraCycle; bags are shredded, melted down and reformed into chips or pellets that can be reused into new plastic products.
Typically, these pellets are used to create beautiful outdoor furniture for consumers or use in public parks.
So where does that leave me? Literally holding the bag. Maybe I can mail it to an Etsy crafter, or use it in place of a tarp to protect the trunk of my vehicle, but since my curbside program doesn’t accept it, and I wasn’t able to find a place online; it seems that while they are “recyclable” in principal, they aren’t recyclable in reality.
Please let me know in the comments if you have found a way to recycle these.
Interestingly enough, during my research I found this company called Preserve that will take rigid plastic #5 containers, such as those for yogurt, hummus, and margarine spreads and turn them into toothbrush handles, and lunchbags.
Update: Proctor & Gamble, the large consumer goods conglomerate, has developed a process to recycle polypropylene at a molecular level. They are building a recycling plant in the hopes to expand it to nine.