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Plastic bags no longer deemed recyclable in San Antonio

A blue recycling cart used by solid waste residential customers
City of San Antonio
A blue recycling cart used by solid waste residential customers

Starting August 1, the San Antonio Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD) will no longer accept single-use plastic bags in the blue recycling cart, even if they are bundled together.

According to SWMD, plastic bags can become entangled with other recyclable materials, rendering them non-recyclable.

This decision to stop recycling plastic bags isn’t only for San Antonio, but other cities such as Houston and Dallas.

“Of the nation’s ten other largest cities, none of them are accepting plastic bags in the blue cart,” SWMD Deputy Director Josephine Valencia said.

Plastic bags and other plastic films can stick to recycling sorting equipment, causing machinery malfunctions and inefficiencies. San Antonio has kept plastic bags on the recyclable list for several years, but Valencia states “operationally it hasn’t worked.”

Although this is a big change for a large part of the San Antonio community, private hauling companies that collect from the remaining commercial businesses and population of 2,081,000, have never accepted plastic bags in their recycling programs.

SWMD recommends the public shop with their own reusable bags or take the plastic bags back to the retailer.

Stores such as HEB offer to recycle single-use bags at every store. They have collected over 58 million pounds of plastic since 2004. This ensures the bags are collected separately and can be properly processed into new products.

If you cannot recycle plastic bags at a retailer, place them in the brown trash cart.

Samuel is a communications senior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He serves as the station manager for the student-run organization, TAMUSA Radio, and is a staff writer for campus magazine El Espejo.

Samuel will graduate from A&M-San Antonio in the Fall 2024 semester and plans to continue on as a journalist in his hometown of San Antonio.