Recycling Bags Not Needed/Prohibited

If you have been purchasing blue or clear “recycling” bags to put in your City of Austin blue recycling cart, I am sorry to say you have been wasting your money.

Bagged recycling is prohibited in the City of Austin blue curbside single-stream recycling carts. They’re also prohibited at most apartment complexes. Recycling should be loose for the single-stream machines to sort the items properly.

Bags clog most single-stream sorting machines which is way they are prohibited. This is why bags are collected separately, they’re processed differently than hard recyclables. The single-stream machines have to be shut down for hours for cleaning out “tanglers” like plastic bags and hoses, two of the top 5 contaminants in recycling carts. If the City of Austin ever decides to implement a fine system for contaminants, which bagged recycling is considered, you could get fined.

Reminder of the Top 5 Recycling Contaminants:

  1. Plastic bags and film
  2. Styrofoam
    • Styrofoam can only be recycled at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center or your city’s local recycling facility. Check your city’s website for restrictions.
  3. Water Hoses
    • Hoses are a composite/mixed material and if they can’t be repaired or reused, go in the trash.
  4. Wood
    • If usable post it for pickup, donate to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a hobby/class program, etc. Untreated wood may go in the compost carts. Treated wood goes in the trash.
  5. Textiles
    • Donate if wearable/usable. Unwearable items can be recycled at your local Goodwill. I recommend you separate out the unusable items and label the bagsomething like “scrap,rags, or for recycling.”
    • Textiles do not go in the compost carts either, even if the fabric is a natural material. The commercial composting facility is not designed to break down fabrics/textiles. Please donate to a proper recycling facility for proper recycling.

Bagged recycling does not get torn open by machines or humans. There’s not enough time and it’s inefficient. The bags are pulled off the conveyor and thrown away.

The only two uses I can think of for these are if you want to keep your kitchen collection bin clean. However you’ll need to empty out the bag into your blue cart so you may as well put the items in your collection bin loose to begin with. The other use may be if you own a small business and need to visually differentiate between black trash and clear/blue recycling due to the small scale collection.