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When we take plastic bags back to the grocery store, what happens to them?

Merton Vance

They get recycled.

The bags collected at grocery stores are processed through their own systems, said Lynn Bestul, recycling planner for the New Hanover County Department of Environmental; Management.

The county does not have a system for recycling plastic shopping bags, so she asks that residents not put them in the county recycling bins.

“The bags create an extra time delay processing the plastics, putting unnecessary workload on the sorting staff,” she said.

The major grocery stores in the area all recycle plastic grocery bags.

Lowes Foods recycles about 624 tons of plastic each year, according to the company’s statistics.

A large amount of plastic recycled by Harris Teeter ends up being combined with wood chips to produce composite lumber that is used for making porches and decks.

Food Lion, on its corporate website, estimates that if typical shoppers used reusable grocery bags twice a week for two years, it would save about 832 plastic bags.

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