Leaders in the domestic plastic bag industry are planning a campaign to educate consumers about the importance of recycling.
Processors of the low and high density polyethylene sacks continue to face threats of stricter laws or bans from regulators who are concerned about bag pollution.
``Without a significant change in consumer behavior to recycle plastic bags, this issue will continue forever,'' said Pete Grande, chief executive officer of Command Packaging in Vernon, Calif., and president of the California Film Extruders & Converters Association, based in Newport Beach, Calif.
Organizers will kick off the campaign at the Cerritos, Calif., Sheraton hotel June 12 - less than three weeks before a relevant California recycling law takes effect July 1.
``We want to create a simple way for consumers to identify which plastic bags are recyclable and how to recycle them,'' Grande said in a telephone interview. ``We have to remove the ambiguity. We will start in California and spread [the message] across the country. We cannot eliminate single-use plastic bags. The reality is we cannot live without them. Paper is no better, and there is not enough supply.''
In addition to CFECA, Grande and others are drawing support from the Progressive Bag Alliance, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Film and Bag Federation and the American Chemistry Council.
``We are all on the same page and recognize that it will take a consolidated effort by the industry to be a catalyst of change,'' he said. ``Where [the groups] are not in complete agreement yet is in the tactics we are going to use to accomplish this.''
On Sept. 30, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the controversial bill that establishes a six-year pilot program for in-store recycling of plastic grocery bags.
The program requires supermarkets and large retailers with pharmacies to take back and recycle the bags and, during the pilot period, pre-empts local governments in the state from mandating a bag tax or making other recycling efforts.
The law calls for retailers to educate consumers on recycling opportunities and requires labeling on each bag that states: ``Please return to a participating store for recycling.''
In various domestic and foreign venues, ongoing packaging discussions touch on various plastic bag prohibitions and pending bans, thoughts about the feasibility and expense of compostable plastic bags and encouragement for consumers to adopt reusable canvas, cloth and natural fabric bags.
Grande expects the industry campaign to pressure local governments and seek broad support to reinforce the value of a ``clean homogeneous'' stream of post-consumer recycled PE for reprocessing.
``We want to turn the plastic bag industry into a green industry [and become a] catalyst to help consumers understand,'' Grande said. ``We will introduce a new icon that, hopefully, will be recognizable across the U.S.''