Time running out to block bag bans

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: May 10, 2013 2:10 pm ET
Updated: May 10, 2013 4:33 pm ET

Image By: Rich Williams

Related to this story

Topics Public Policy Film & Sheet Government & Legislation Grocery bags
Companies & Associations

For a long time, when people in the plastics industry talked about plastic grocery bags being recyclable it was a mostly theoretical exercise.

Sure, they're recyclable. They're thermoplastic. There's nothing wrong with polyethylene, right?

But the reality was that most bags were not recycled. Some were made into low-grade plastic lumber. Some were exported to China. Most had a brief second life as a lunch bag, a trashcan liner or a doggie clean-up device. Then they ended up in the trash.

Some, unfortunately, ended up as litter. And that was a big problem.

By volume, single-use grocery bags are not a huge part of litter and marine debris. Look at the results of any beach cleanup, and you'll see that bags are way down the list of problem products.

But bags are extremely visible and an easy target for well-intentioned people who want to do something to make the planet a cleaner place.

So bans and taxes started to appear. And they've continued to pop up — like dandelions in a spring Ohio lawn.

Now some plastics processors are pulling out all the stops to recycle plastic bags.

Last year we wrote about Hilex Poly Co. LLC, the largest U.S. plastic bag maker. The Hartsville, S.C., company operates the world's largest closed-loop plastic bag recycling facility, in North Vernon, Ind.

Hilex isn't alone. Just last week, we wrote about Trex Co. Inc., which uses thin films in its high-end wood-alternative decking.

Trex started recycling bags and film in grocery stores in 2008, and the company has spent a lot of time and effort to iron out some technical issues. Now Trex is beefing up recycling in Southern California — ground zero for the bag-ban issue. It hopes to expand the plan to all 50 states.

Thanks to the efforts of companies like Hilex and Trex, more than 1 billion pounds of post-consumer plastic bags and films were collected for recycling in 2011 in the U.S. (There's no doubt that current figures are even higher, but these are the most recent numbers available.)

Plastic bag recycling got off to a slow start. For too long,

the plastics industry battled bag bans by talking about the advantages of source reduction and energy savings (vs. paper bags), hygiene (vs. reusable bags) and pocketbook issues like the importance of plastics industry jobs.

Now that recycling is real and successful, we'll see if it's too late.

When Plastics News staff reporter Gayle S. Putrich asked Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste about the latest Trex project, he told her: "While we wish Trex the best of luck in their current efforts, there is zero chance that new balers are going to save the day for single-use grocery bags in California. Whether through local ordinance, state law or consumer preference, single-use plastic grocery bags will not exist in California in the next three to four years."

At this point, it may take a miracle to prove him wrong.

Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of "The Plastics Blog."


Comments

Time running out to block bag bans

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: May 10, 2013 2:10 pm ET
Updated: May 10, 2013 4:33 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Congress makes another attempt to update chemical regulations

April 15, 2015 11:09 am ET

A new Congress means taking yet another crack at updating the 1970s law regulating U.S. chemical manufacturing, transportation and use.    More

Image

GN Thermoforming changes management following founder's arrest

April 15, 2015 4:47 pm ET

GN Thermoforming Equipment officials say Georg Nemeskeri has stepped away from active involvement with the company he founded 34 years ago and a...    More

Image

OSHA targets firm making plastic balls used in fracking

April 15, 2015 4:55 pm ET

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it may fine a manufacturing company in New York for 48 alleged violations of...    More

Image

Economic déjà vu: strong spring growth expected after a rough winter

April 15, 2015 2:03 pm ET

The long, harsh winter is finally over, and the first quarter of the calendar is history. So now is an appropriate time to review the emerging trends ...    More

Image

Arizona bans bag bans, mandatory recycling

April 15, 2015 11:52 am ET

Swimming against the stream of bag bans around the country, a new Arizona law prohibits local bans, taxes or fees on plastic bags and other containers...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molding Market Analysis & Processor Rankings

Plastics News BUNDLED package contains our in-depth Market Analysis of the Injection Molding segment. You will gain keen insight on current trends and our economic outlook.

As a BONUS this includes PN's updated 2014 database of North American Injection Molders RANKED by sales volume. Sort, merge, mail & prospect by end market, materials processed, region, # of plants and more.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 15, 2015 - September 17, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events