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Film recycling gains show real progress

By: Patty Moore
Nina Butler
Stacey Luddy

February 17, 2012

Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, uses misleading facts and figures in his attempt to downplay the positive news in the recent “National Postconsumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report.”

If Mr. Murray was genuinely interested in reducing waste, he would help recycling efforts by promoting the opportunity to recover recyclable household items such as toilet-paper wrap and bread bags — thanks to the infrastructure provided by retailers across U.S. to collect bags. That infrastructure, unlike curbside, does not cost communities anything and is a benefit to the retail community as well. Most grocers voluntarily collect bags and wraps from their customers and combine them with their back-of-the store pallet wrap. This high-quality product is being purchased by domestic reclaimers, diverting valuable resources from disposal and creating jobs.

The figures Mr. Murray uses in his press release about the National Postconsumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report misdirect the readers. It is true there was an increase in film and bag generation from 2009-10 according to EPA figures, but the increase of all bags, sacks and wraps was only 160 million pounds and the increase in recycling was 220 million pounds. And, over a three-year period (2008-10) recycling gains are even more impressive. The EPA data states that recycling of bags, sacks and wraps grew by 120 million pounds, while sales of the same fell 60 million pounds. (Wraps grew over the three-year period, but bags and sacks sales actually dropped 340 million pounds.) The data clearly shows that film recycling is making significant gains.

Mr. Murray questions Moore Recycling Associates’ methodology to determine the amount of bags recovered by referencing a California study that calls the validity of its own data into question several times. As stated in our report, Moore Recycling selected the most conservative percentage of bags mixed with wraps that were reported by companies that buy and process millions of pounds of retail-generated material from across the country. A mixed-film bale with only 6 percent bag material would be either a premium-grade bale with a high percent of wrap, or a really bad bale with an extreme level of contamination. And note that the 6 percent Murray referenced was for “complying” bags, a very narrow California-specific definition.

More important than clarifying Mr. Murray’s inveigled figures, is to acknowledge that we saw growth in domestic processing of recovered film and bag material. Domestic reclaimers reported increases in all grades of film. More material was processed in the U.S./Canada than was sold to overseas markets, a significant reversal in the trend of the past several years. The sustainability of our infrastructure to manage our resources domestically depends on a steady supply of quality material. The retail infrastructure for collecting bags — which allows for the collection of consumer sacks and wrap as well — is making these recycling gains possible.

Patty Moore, Nina Butler

and Stacey Luddy

Moore Recycling Associates Inc.

Sonoma, Calif.