WASHINGTON — A proposal to ban plastic bags from compost piles in Michigan — a rare statewide effort to restrict their use — is drawing complaints from industry and pushing plastics officials to tout an alternative.
The proposal would ban plastic bags from lawn and leaf composting. Plastics officials want the state instead to adopt standards that would allow any type of bag, as long as it is biodegradable and does not interfere with composting.
No other state has legislation restricting plastic bags from being used to collect compost, officials said. But local ordinances restricting plastic are much more common, largely because of bad experiences with plastics that do not degrade well, according to industry officials.
The state legislator sponsoring the bill, Rep. Kirk Profit, D-Ypsilanti, could not be reached for comment.
Profit is open to talking about other alternatives as long as composting is not made more complicated, said Roger Bernstein, vice president of state government affairs for the joint state lobbying arm of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and the American Plastics Council.
``We're open to discussion,'' he said. ``If push comes to shove and you can't create standards that make sense, we'd prefer no legislation to bad legislation.''
The Michigan House has momentum to pass a bill, but Bernstein was not sure how much support exists in the state Senate.
SPI's Degradable Polymers Council wants the state to adopt European standards that specify how quickly a bag must disintegrate before it can be used for compost, said Steve Mojo, a market development consultant for Cargill Inc., a Minneapolis-based make of biodegradable resin.
Basically, those standards require that no more than 10 percent of the bag remain on a 2-millimeter screen after a typical 12-week composting cycle, that 60 percent of the bag mineralizes in six months and that there is no significant ecological toxicity from the bag.
European countries have developed standards on biodegradability because composting is used more widely there, said Frederic Scheer, chief executive officer of Biocorp Inc., a Los Angeles-based biodegradable bag extruder.
Local governments in the United States are wary of claims that plastic is biodegradable because some polyethylene-based bags improperly are touted as degradable, even after the Federal Trade Commission restricted such claims, Scheer said.
``You have a lot of skepticism about this whole issue,'' he said. ``They know that `biodegradable' 10 years ago did not work. Nobody is going to take a chance.''