Recycling Dilemma #1008: Plastic bags and film – Friend or Foe?

Paper or plastic? Environmentally conscious shoppers know the answer: none of the above. They know reusable totes beat paper or plastic every time. Forgoing plastic bags at the store has a big impact. But what about all the other plastic packaging in our lives? Film that wraps itself around our favorite snacks, air pillows and bubble wrap mailed to us daily, and newspaper bags magically appearing on our driveway.   

While it is most important to reduce our consumption of single use plastics such as bags and film, it’s nearly impossible to avoid these stretchy, sneaky plastics. They’re everywhere. Yet, they can’t be recycled in our curbside carts. They can, however, be easily recycled at local stores.  

Are these plastics all foes to the planet, or could they be recycled and reimagined as an eco-friendly material?  

The plastic bags and film that you recycle at the store are sold to manufacturers. They take on a second life as bottles and containers, plastic lumber, picnic tables, lawn furniture, playground equipment, recycling bins and more. Trex combines recycled film with reclaimed woods to create a wood-alternative decking and railing used in local parks, pathways and backyard patios.  

See how companies like Trex are reimagining plastic film as an Eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood lumber. 

Recycle these plastic films if they are clean and dry only: 

  • Air Pillows and Bubble Wrap 
  • Case Wrap, Pallet/Stretch Wrap 
  • Newspaper and Magazine Sleeves 
  • Bags on Clothing or Electronics 
  • Dry Cleaning Bags 
  • Bread Bags, Produce Bags, Food Storage Bags (but NOT frozen food or salad bags) 
  • Grocery/Retail Bags & Other Film Packages 

Please only recycle film that is clean and dry. Moisture causes mildew on film and cannot be accepted at stores. For a printable guide, click here.

Plastic bags and film can be recycled at participating locations such as all grocery stores in The Woodlands, the Precinct 3 Recycling Facility and department stores such as Walmart and Target. Look for a receptacle near the entrance or ask staff at the service desk.  Please note, during the COVID-19 pandemic, some locations may not be accepting plastics at this time. If either is the case, please collect your bags/wraps at home until events change. Bags/wraps can be compressed and stored inside another plastic bag. 

Plastic bags and bagged recyclables are not accepted in our curbside recycling cart program because sorting equipment is not designed to process it without damaging equipment or creating hazardous work conditions for staff. Find more information in Recycling Dilemma #1004 – To bag or not to bag

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:    

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov  

The Plastic Free EcoChallenge Is On!

Stop plastic pollution at its source.

More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year. Single-use plastics, such as take-out waste, accounts for 50% of this pollution. We all have the power to stop plastic pollution at its source by making simple lifestyle changes to reduce our disposable plastic habit.

Join The Woodlands Township’s Plastic-Free EcoChallenge Team for the month of July to learn ways to reduce plastic and compete with other organizations across the globe. 

Single-use plastics are used for moments, but exist on the planet for hundreds of years.

The Plastic-Free EcoChallenge is hosted by the network of North American Zoos & Aquariums and inspired by the Australian-founded Plastic Free July initiative to end plastic pollution in our oceans. This 31-day, global challenge will empower you with ideas to reduce and refuse single-use plastics. We invite you to take action and start plastic-free habits today.  

Earn points for our community by completing the suggested daily or one-time actions. During the EcoChallenge, participants are encouraged to share their progress with fellow Ecochallengers on the website and on social media. The combination of collective inspiration, camaraderie and friendly competition makes reducing plastic use a lot easier and a lot more fun. Let’s share our successes and do good together. 

Are you ready to stop plastic pollution at its source? Check out this video about how to join the Plastic-Free EcoChallenge or follow the instructions below.

How to sign up

  1. Visit this referral link to join The Woodlands Township’s team. 
  2. Create an account 
  3. Invite your friends to earn bonus points. 
  4. Select the actions you will take in July and start earning points for our community! 

If you aren’t interested in joining the competition, you can still make a difference. Here are the top ways to reduce plastic in your daily life: 

  • Bring your own bag.  On average in the United States, 100 billion plastic bags are used by consumers annually. The average time each bag is used is less than 15 minutes. Remember to wash reusable bags regularly. 
  • Bring your own water bottle or cup. The amount of water used to produce a plastic bottle is 6 to 7 times the amount of water in the bottle. 
  • Use your own mug. Store a mug at your office or bring coffee in a travel mug from home. 
  • Choose cardboard and paper packaging over plastic containers and bags. Less than 14 percent of plastic packaging– the fastest-growing type of packaging–gets recycled. 
  • Kick the disposable straw habit, especially plastic ones. If you must use a straw, try a reusable one made of stainless steel, silicone or bamboo. 
  • When you can’t reduce, remember to recycle plastic bottles and containers! Check out these tips for recycling take-out waste 

Help us turn the tide on plastic pollution by joining the 2020 Plastic-Free EcoChallenge with The Woodlands Township. For questions, contact the Environmental Services Department at 281-210-3800 or enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Recycling Dilemma #1005 – Take-out Containers

Determining if something is recyclable can be harder than deciding what to order for dinner. Before you take out your recycling, use these tips to ensure you’re recycling take out containers correctly. By recycling the accepted items and ONLY the accepted items, you help ensure the success of our curbside program.

Check out these tips from previous blogs: 

Want more ideas on how to reduce waste? Check out this blog for easy steps to take and kick your plastic habit. 


Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Take the Plastic Free Pledge: Choose to Refuse!

Summer vacation means more parties, picnics, and eating on-the-go! It’s time to reflect on our disposable habits. Plastic Free July highlights how our short-term convenient choices can have long-term impacts on our environment.

Did You Know?

“Eight out of ten items found on beaches in international coastal cleanups are related to eating and drinking,” according to One World One Ocean. This is one problem with an easy solution: choose to refuse!

Top five ways to reduce plastic in your daily life:

  1. Bring your own bag. The average time each plastic bag is used is less than 15 minutes
  2. Bring your own bottle. The amount of water used to produce a plastic bottle is 6 to 7 times the amount of water in the bottle.
  3. Bring your own mug. Many coffee shops give a discount if you bring your own container!
  4. Choose cardboard and paper packaging over plastic containers and bags. Less than 14 percent of plastic packaging– the fastest-growing type of packaging–gets recycled.
  5. Kick the disposable straw habit. Plastic straws are not recyclable.. If you must use a straw, try a reusable one made of stainless steel or bamboo.

Take The Woodlands Plastic Free Pledge for a FREE stainless steel reusable straw and let us know how YOU will break your disposable habit!

Explore more easy tips here! Encourage others to BYO with these posters!


At home and on the go, when you can’t reduce, remember to recycle! Discover new opportunities to recycle beyond the norm at this year’s 3R Bazaar on November 9th at The Woodlands Farmer’s Market at Grogan’s Mill. Bring batteries, toothbrushes, textiles, eyeglasses and more for special recycling collections. Need more information? Call the Environmental Services Department at 281-210-3800.

World Ocean Day : The cost of litter

June 8th is World Ocean Day, a celebration of the mysterious blue waters that cover 70% of the planet and provide a home for  50-80% of all life on earth. Healthy oceans and coasts provide services that are critical to sustaining life on land including climate regulation, food, medicines, and even compounds that make peanut butter easy to spread!


Source: NOAA Why Care About The Ocean?

Currently, the largest threat to the ocean is pollution, primarily from plastics. Plastics, synthetic organic polymers normally created from petroleum, are so long lasting that all the plastic that has ever been created still exists today. Once they enter our waters, plastics entangle marine life or erode into smaller particles that are then ingested. Every piece of litter we pick up on land, including here in The Woodlands, helps the ocean and the life within.

Where does pollution come from?

The majority of ocean pollution originates on land as trash that blows out of landfills, litter that was left behind in outdoor spaces, waste from processing facilities and illegal dumping. Litter can travel long distances through storm drains, lakes and rivers to reach the ocean.   Located in the Gulf Coast Region, litter in The Woodlands eventually makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico if we don’t take the opportunity to remove it before it enters our waterways.  Beach goers and recreational boaters visiting our lakes and shores can greatly reduce ocean pollution by properly disposing of any trash, especially fishing nets, plastics bottles and bags. 

What does it cost?

Litter costs Texas taxpayers $40 million annually in clean up efforts, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. If every Texan picked up two pieces of trash each month, our highways would be completely litter-free in just one year. That money could be reallocated towards other programs working to clean our oceans. 

The top litter items found in the environment are cigarette butts and food/retail industry waste such as take out containers, straws and cutlery.

Let’s answer the call to action for our oceans!

Here’s how we can make a difference:

  1. Coordinate your own cleanup
  • Bring a bucket to the beach, one for treasures and one for trash; recycle what you can

2. Support an organization

  • There are many groups forming their own cleanups. Become involved or consider making a donation.

3. Not able to make it to the shoreline? There’s plenty you can do at home

  • Reduce plastics by, purchasing items with less packaging when shopping
  • Reuse as much as you canbring your own bags & bottles
  • Refuse single use plastics such as straws, bags and cutlery.