Flexible Plastic Packaging

Did you know that flexible plastic packaging is the most common contaminant found in CVRD curbside recycling totes? According to 2022 curbside audit data, these items represent approximately 40% of all curbside recycling contaminants in Cowichan Valley recycling totes.

The Problem:

When flexible plastic packaging is put in your curbside recycling tote, it gets tangled in equipment causing lengthy shut-downs and expensive delays at the sorting facility. These materials also mix with other recyclables which can affect the quality of recycled products.

What is Flexible Plastic Packaging?

Flexible plastic packaging represents a wide range of items that we interact with every day. Simply put, flexible plastic packaging refers to plastics that you can easily scrunch up into a ball due to their bendable nature. Typical items include grocery and bread bags, snack wrappers, netted produce bags, and zipper lock pouches. Given the vast differences between these materials, they are divided into two categories that represent different recycling needs: 

1. Plastic Bags and Overwrap- stretchy plastic packaging you can poke your thumb through:

  • Plastic carrying bags used for dry cleaning, bread, newspapers and flyers, etc.
  • Bags for produce, dry bulk foods and frozen vegetables, etc.
  • Outer bags and wrap for water bottles, toilet paper, diapers, etc.
  • Overwrap for mattresses, furniture and electronic equipment

2. Other Flexible Plastic Packaging- packaging made of various materials that you cannot easily poke your thumb through:

  • Zipper lock pouches for frozen foods like prawns, berries, and vegetables; fresh foods like fruit, deli meat, etc.
  • Stand-up pouches for dried fruit and nuts, quinoa, grated cheese, dish detergent pods, etc.
  • Bags for potato chips, wrappers for cheese slices, cookies, and candy bars, etc.
  • Packaging for dry pasta, pre-packaged deli meats, cereal bags, etc.
  • Net bags for avocados, onions, citrus fruit, etc.
  • Padded protective plastic like plastic shipping envelopes, bubble wrap, plastic air packets
  • Flexible packaging with plastic seals for fresh pasta, cheese, and deli meats, etc.
  • Plastic freshness seals, like those used on yogurt containers, etc.

See the Recycle BC Accepted Material List for more information

Need some more help differentiating between the two? See our flexible plastic packaging decision tree!

What Can I do?

The good news is that all flexible plastic packaging is recyclable at CVRD Recycling Centres and other drop-off depots! Need help learning what belongs in your recycling tote? See our Recycling Info Card or visit the Cowichan Recyclopedia.