Bagged down

Bagged down

Dear Barry: First off, Ace reminds you that you can always reuse your bags. Shoppers who use their own bags at Whole Foods get a nickel back for each bag they carry (though they are warned not to abuse the system—so no showing up with 200 bags shoved down your shorts). At Rebecca’s Natural Foods, one worker told Ace that she “always appreciates it” when customers use their own bags.
    But maybe you just want to be rid of that crumply, noisy monkey on your back as soon as possible, with a minimum of guilt. To find out plastic bags’ status as recyclables, Ace put in a call to Bruce J. Edmonds, recycling operations manager for the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, and the man in charge of the McIntire Road recycling facility. According to him, most bags are made of low-density polyethylene, or LDPE. Now, LDPE can be recycled, but there’s much more demand for HDPE, which–you guessed it–stands for high-density polyethylene. Given that (and the fact that every space in the recycling center is already taken), the RSWA doesn’t accept plastic grocery bags.
    Fortunately, Ace confirmed that many area grocery stores, such as Kroger, Harris Teeter and Giant, offer recycling for the bags they distribute. You can rest easy now, knowing that a bin for your excess bags is often available at the front of your local grocery store. But what happens then, you ask? Well, the collected bags are shipped to a central facility for processing, get bundled into large bales, and are then sold to businesses that want them.
    “A lot of the recycled bags end up in quite a bit of commercial plastic decking,” said Jamie Miller, a spokesman for Giant Foods.
    So stand tall, Barry! You could very well be stomping on the physical proof of your dedication to a cleaner world at this very moment. Finally, allow Ace to congratulate you on your interest in recycling. Ace, too, is an avid recycler. After all, empty glass bottles–unlike so many drunken memories–don’t get rid of themselves. You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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