In response to Walter Bobruk's March 6 letter "Colored Bags Bring On the Blues," I would like to say that blue bags are recyclable. They can be and are being economically diverted out of the waste stream. It is true that not all recyclers using plastic bags have downstream applications or markets that can use all colors of film. However, it is also true that some users of recyclable film have continually invested in their businesses to improve their processes, product lines, and markets.
The demand for used grocery sacks as a feedstock far outweighs the supply. We estimate that the current products utilizing returned bags are capable of consuming all of the bags produced in the United States, even the blue.
It is important to note that the generation of a very large percentage of blue film for bags is done to meet the specifications of community curbside collection and recycling programs. Since one of the most common reuses of a carryout bag is as a trash bag, many retailers have voluntarily contributed to the acceptance of community recycling programs by specifying blue carryout bags. Some citizens, who could not or would not purchase a blue bag to support community recycling, frequently become active participants due to the "free" blue bags they receive when they shop.
The plastic bag industry has acted responsibly. At one time they, and their retailer partners, voluntarily cosponsored more than 14,000 collection stations to support bag recycling while products and markets were being developed. A large number of these sites continue to accept the responsibility and expense of collecting and recycling plastic bags.
The Film and Bag Federation of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. has a standing committee that addresses issue of plastic bag recycling with its members. All members of the federation have actively worked to find markets for the consumption of used bags. The federation has one of the most vigorous programs in the plastics industry designed to inform the general public, educators and students about recycling issues.
It is unfortunate that instead of saying "thank you," some find it easier to make a scapegoat of whole industries of manufacturers and retailers rather than focus on the few irresponsible people who continue to litter without regard to the types of materials that make up their trash.
SPI Film and Bag Federation