Morris Residents: Please Keep Plastic Bags Out Of Curbside Recycling Containers: They Jam and Disrupt Recycling System


The Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority is urging county residents to keep all types of plastic bags out of the recycling content they put at the curb for recycling collection, stressing that plastic bags are a major hindrance to recycling operations.

Plastic bags are one of the worst contaminants in the recycling process, on a list of unwanted materials that also include scrap metal, wires, hazardous waste, chemicals, diapers, syringes, needles, propane tanks, and hangers.

None of these items should be included with curbside recyclables since they can hurt employees and disable machinery.

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However, plastic bag contamination is especially troublesome because it causes the Morris County MUA’s recycling system to shut down several times a day. The plastic bags wrap around rotating axles, wheels and disks of the MUA’s mechanical sorting and processing system, bringing the system to a halt.

 “When the machines are silent, production stops and the receiving lines back up, resulting in a reduction in recycling processing efficiency, safety, and the value of recyclables, while labor costs go up,’’ said MUA Recycling Specialist Chris Vidal.

“At times, plastic bags slip through the sorting process and wind up in the paper bales,’’ said Vidal. “Since plastic, obviously, is not paper, it is a major contaminant of paper bales and can lead to the paper being unmarketable and, therefore, not recycled.’’

For these reasons, plastic bags (garbage bags, shopping bags, zip-lock bags, bread bags, newspaper bags, wood pellet bags, etc.) and plastic film (shrink-wrap, plastic wrap around cases of water bottles, packing pillows, bubble wrap, flexible plastic food packaging, etc.) are excluded from the Morris County MUA’s single-stream recycling program.

So, what to do with plastic bags? They can be recycled at select supermarkets and stores. The bags, including supermarket type plastic bags and bread, newspaper, dry cleaning and other plastic bag, must be empty, clean, and free of moisture or food when recycled at these locations. Watch this video:

In addition, to cut down on the number of plastic bags consider using reusable cloth shopping bags when heading to the store. Keep a few in your trunk or back seat, advises Vidal.

There is one exception to the “no plastic bag” rule in Morris County’s single-stream program: Shredded paper. Shredded paper must be placed in clear or see-through plastic bags so it can easily be seen and manually be removed at the start of the recycling sorting line. Loose shredded paper is too small to be captured for recycling and falls through the automated sorting system. 

For more information about single-stream recycling, visit the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority’s website at






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