Reduce Plastic Waste

Recycling can help reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills, waterways and ecosystems but only a few types of plastics can be recycled in Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio.

Most single-use items are not recoverable and cannot be recycled. Plastic garbage that ends up in landfills and Lake Erie take hundreds or thousands of years to degrade. Plus, there’s growing concern about the chemicals and toxins that plastics release into the environment.
Plastic surrounds us in our every day lives and eliminating it can seem overwhelming. Consider these easy ways to get started.

Reduce Plastic Bags

  • #BYOBags. When you shop, take your own bags to the grocery, retail or convenience store. Canvas, vinyl or cloth are great options. Find a design or color that matches your personality and purchasing habits.
  • Pick up poop. Bread bags, frozen food bags and used food storage bags are a strong option for picking up after your pooch on your next walk around the neighborhood.
  • Forget the poop bags altogether. Use an unlined handled scooper or shovel to collect the doo then deposit the pile into a backyard dog waste composter.
  • Use reusable produce bags. Purchase mesh bags or make your own reusable cloth bags for fresh fruits and vegetables. Be sure to wash them often.
  • Do you really need that bag? If you're only purchasing one or two items, or taking restaurant leftovers to go, carry the items out of the store or eatery without a plastic bag.
  • Use other bags you may have around the house such as pet food, birdseed and dry cleaning bags as kitchen trash can liners. You may be surprised at the other options that you already have in your household.
  • Consider not lining smaller trash cans in bathrooms and bedrooms at all. Most household trash outside of the kitchen is dry and does not require a liner plus it can be combined into one larger kitchen trash bag each week. If you prefer a liner, try using a paper bag instead.

Reduce Other Plastics

  • Skip the straw. Say no to plastic straws, especially at restaurants or when you’re on-the-go. If using a straw is necessary, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw.
  • Purchase eggs packaged in paper cartons that can be recycled instead of Styrofoam or plastic. If your store doesn't carry them, ask them to make a change.
  • Choose other goods or products packaged in metal, glass or cardboard instead of plastic. Aluminum and glass are infinitely recyclable without loss in quality. Cardboard is recyclable and biodegradable. 
  • Choose to use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop.
  • In addition to reusable coffee mugs, water bottles and straws, carry your own reusable silverware. Try bamboo, a renewable resource.
  • Headed out to eat? Bring your own container for the leftovers or takeout to avoid the restaurant’s to-go plastic or Styrofoam packaging. 
  • Don't use plasticware at home and be sure to ask restaurants to not pack them in your takeout box.
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags instead of in sandwich bags and plastic wrap. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies or bulk items instead of products that come in single-serving cups.
  • Eating at your workplace cafeteria? Bring your own plate or container instead of using the disposable ones that they provide.
  • Party time! Party cups are not recyclable. Instead, choose to serve beverages to your guests in recyclable cans or bottles. Or, provide them with a cup that can be washed and reused.
  • Eliminate bottled water. Consider water packaged in boxes or cans or fill a reusable bottle or pitcher with tap water. You'll save money while reducing waste.
  • Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. 
  • Use bar soap in place of liquid hand soap and shower gel or body wash. Choose bars wrapped in paper or bars that can be purchased in bulk.
  • If goods packaged in plastic wrap are unavoidable, recycle the plastic film anywhere that plastic bags are accepted for recycling. This includes the wrap on toilet paper and paper towels, bread bags and cereal bag liners. See

Cuyahoga County's Plastic Bag Ban

Cuyahoga County's plastic bag ban goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Learn more about the ban. 

Nonprofits in Cuyahoga County can submit a request for free reusable bagsUpdate 01/21/2020: Thank you for your interest in receiving free reusable bags. At this time, all of the reusable bags have been requested and there are none remaining for distribution to organizations. You are still welcome to submit a request form, in the event that more bags are available in the future.​

Need help remembering your reusable bags? Request a BYOBags vinyl window cling for your vehicle, house windows, doors or mirrors or read our blog post of tips

See more details about how to recycle in Cuyahoga County or learn more about the recycling process.

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