(Sept. 4, 2006) — Paging Henry Clay! The art of compromise is alive and well! Congratulations are in order for the plastics processors who helped negotiate a bill in California that will require all grocery stores to provide plastic bag recycling opportunities — and also put a stop to communities banning or taxing plastic bags in the Golden State.
The Progressive Bag Alliance worked with Californians Against Waste on this project, and the groups have the support of the California Retailers Association and the California Grocers Association.
Bringing together a coalition like that is noteworthy.
Too often, it seems, industry and environmental groups automatically take opposing sides on issues. They take an attitude that anything the other side favors must be bad. Politically, the United States is becoming a nation of would-be leaders who like to be polarized, enjoy being self-righteous, and rarely admit to making a mistake. People would rather end up in court than actually talk through and solve problems.
Our parents would be ashamed.
Seriously, though, PBA and CAW have earned our praise, not just for working together, but for the meat of the deal itself.
Some details: All retail outlets above 10,000 square feet will be required to provide recycling bins and educational materials to promote plastic bag recycling. The law applies to big-box, department, jewelry, home furnishing, drug and grocery stores.
All plastic bags provided to customers will have to be printed with the slogan “Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling.” In addition, stores are required to provide reusable bags for customers to purchase.
In addition, the bill stops local governments from banning, levying fees or placing taxes on plastic bags as long as stores are participating in the state-mandated bag recycling program. This moratorium on local government action will be in effect until Jan. 1, 2013.
Smaller stores also can participate. Those that do will receive the same benefits and protections from local government actions.
The bill will require bag manufacturers, distributors and suppliers to do the following:
* Print the recycling slogan on each plastic bag used in California.
* Develop education materials for stores that encourage recycling, reusing and reducing the use of plastic bags.
* Make the education materials available to stores participating in the program. In addition, PBA plans to conduct a statewide program promoting recycling at stores and via curbside collection programs.
PBA comprises the four largest domestic bag manufacturers: Hilex Poly Co. LLC, Advance Polybag Inc., Superbag Corp. and Inteplast Group Ltd. These bag companies are fighting for market share in an environment that would be extremely difficult even without facing opposition from environmentalists and municipalities that see bag taxes as attractive revenue sources. They're dealing with competition from overseas film extruders, and high resin prices.
Still, they recognize that this issue is bigger than California, while at the same time these companies are fighting to keep a share of that important market by giving consumers — and legislators — what they want.
We hope the effort is successful, and that the spirit of compromise is contagious.