Are sandwich baggies recyclable? ~User of Baggies

Dear User of Baggies,

The good news is, yes, sandwich bags can be recycled. This includes Ziploc, Hefty, and other comparable bags. Most plastic bags are recyclable, including grocery bags, bread bags, cleaning bags and the sleeves that newspaper come in. Just be sure they are clean and dry before taking them to the recycling bins at Kroger or Walmart, not the Recycling Center as they do not have the capacity to recycle them.

I use a pod every morning to make my hot chocolate. Are these used pods recyclable? ~Chocaholic

Dear Chocaholic,

There are two types of pods on the market today. One is the single-use pod and the other one is the reusable pod. The reusable pod requires users to fill the pod with their own beverage mix. The single use pods are designed for convenience. They are ready for immediate use. The majority of these single use pods are not recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. Some manufacturers are advertising recyclable pods, made from #5 plastic. Unfortunately, to recycle them you must first peel off the lid and clean out the contents. For more information on recycling these pods check out Coffee Drinkers Can Recycle Reduce Waste. Nespresso has just started a pod recycling program to make it easy for customers to send the pods back for recycling. They turn the grounds into compost and recycle every part of the capsule. See for more details. Because so many of these pods go to landfills, Hamburg, Germany has gone so far as to ban the use of coffee pods in public buildings

Some of the plastic wrap I see doesn’t have a number of it. Can I put any plastic wraps, even those without numbers, in the drop-off bin at stores like Kroger or Walmart? ~Can’t Find A Number

Dear Can’t Find A Number,

No, your plastic wrap should not be put in a store drop-off bin, like Kroger or Walmart, unless the wrap has a #2 or #4 in the recycle symbol or a How2Recycle Label on it. Some plastic wraps have ingredients in them that can contaminate wrap recycling. If the wrap doesn’t have a recycle number or a recycle label, the safest thing to do is to throw it in the trash. When in doubt, throw it out.

Do #1 and #2 plastics need to be put in separate bags for curbside pick-up? ~Separator

Dear Separator,

No, #1 and #2 plastics do not need to be put in separate bags for curbside pick-up. They can be put in the same bag. If you decide to take them to the Recycling Center, #1 plastics go in the bin labeled #1 plastics, #2 plastics that are clear (can be easily seen through and are not colored) go in the bin labeled #2 clear plastics and #2 colored plastics go in the bin labeled #2 colored plastics

In your column a couple weeks ago, you mentioned empty prescription pill containers not being recyclable. However, my husband reuses these containers by storing $10 worth of quarters in each one. ~Reuse When Possible

Dear Reuse When Possible,

Great idea. Not only is your husband keeping the pill bottles out of the trash, he is saving money. If any reader has an idea for reusing non-recyclable items, I would love to hear about them. I will pass your ideas on to readers in a future column.

Do I need to remove receipts from plastic shopping bags before putting them in the recycle bins at Kroger or Walmart? ~Shopper

Dear Shopper,

Yes, you need to remove all receipts or any kind of paper from the bag before recycling it. Paper causes problems for plastic film recyclers. If there is a paper label on your plastic bag or wraps, remove it before recycling. Plastic labels on plastic film are okay. As with all recyclable items, plastic bags, wraps and films must be clean and dry before recycling. However, you do not need to rinse and dry out the bags before recycling them.

I see people recycling plastic bottles with caps on, but I have always been told to remove the caps before putting the bottles in recycling. Is it really important to remove caps from plastic bottles? ~Just Wondering

Dear Just Wondering,

It is critical to remove the caps of plastic bottles before recycling, as bottles and caps are made from different kinds of plastic. When two kinds of plastic are mixed, one kind contaminates the other, reducing the value of the recycled material. Additionally, it takes extra time for workers to separate caps from bottles before processing. If caps are left on the bottles, they could jam the processing equipment and also, the bottles may not compact properly. More significantly, a capped bottle might explode and become a safety hazard for workers. As you can see, there are several good reasons for removing caps from plastic bottles before putting them into the recycling bin or bag.

I brought my cardboard to recycling last week and was shocked to see what someone had put in the bin – used pizza boxes. Greasy cardboard cannot be recycled. It is wonderful that people want to recycle, but they need to know what can be recycled. Greasy cardboard should be put in the trash. ~Not So Happy Recycler

Dear Not So Happy Recycler,

You are absolutely correct. Greasy cardboard, of any kind, must not be recycled. It only takes one greasy item to contaminate an entire batch. Cleanliness is not only important when recycling cardboard, but it is critical for everything that goes to recycling so that contamination doesn’t happen. When recycling cardboard boxes don’t forget to remove any packing materials, such as plastic, foam or Styrofoam peanuts. You do not need to flatten the boxes before recycling. Recycling cardboard important because it saves energy and it takes up so much space in the landfill. (Cardboard is the single largest component of municipal solid waste around the world.) To make new boxes out of recycled cardboard requires only 75% of the energy used to make new cardboard. Definitely better for our environment.

When I get a package that has Styrofoam peanuts in it, I put this packing material in a bag to save it. I reuse the Styrofoam peanuts when I send a package out. What’s even better is I read about a company that makes popcorn to use as packing material. Individuals can also use popcorn as packing material. Using a hot air popper is recommended because it doesn’t use oil and the popcorn will be clean. ~Happy Recycler

Dear Happy Recycler,

I’m happy to hear that you are reusing the Styrofoam peanuts. Your suggestion to use air-popped popcorn as packing material is a great idea. If you find that you have more Styrofoam peanuts than you can use, they can be taken to PostNet on US 219 North. They reuse them for the packages they ship. They also accept plastic pillows and bubble wrap. The environment benefits from using as few of these particular contaminants as possible. Styrofoam is one of the worst offenders. Because of its light weight, it is often blown by the wind into bodies of water and into the soil causing problems for both the marine and wildlife. It doesn’t ever decompose. It stays in the environment for hundreds of thousands of years and it crumbles easily into small pieces, making it more likely that birds and fish will eat it. Three cheers for Maine and Maryland that have banned the use of Styrofoam. I hope West Virginia will consider banning it soon.

I received an email from Environmental America stating that “in just 30 short years, the plastics industry will generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as 615 coal-fired power plants. Nearly all plastic is made from fossil fuel sources. Not only do plastics pollute our land and water and kill wildlife, but even their production releases some of the worst greenhouse gases. It’s like pouring gas on the fire of our climate crisis.” ~Environmentalist

Dear Environmentalist,

Thanks for the timely information.  As individuals and as a community, we all need to do more to reduce our plastic footprint.  One of the best, and simplest, ways to do this is to avoid the use of single-use plastics, such plastic bags, straws and stirrers, disposable containers, disposable cups, plates and cutlery, whenever possible.