Two associations representing film and bag makers hope their new initiatives will slow down growing legislative interest in banning plastic bags.
The Progressive Bag Alliance, in partnership with several California-based organizations, plans to roll out an educational campaign and a new recycling logo, Bring It Back, on June 11.
The program was developed in conjunction with the Film and Bag Federation, the California Grocers Association and the California Retailers Association to meet a state mandate.
The law requires stores with more than 10,000 square feet of retail space to provide at-store recycling programs by July 1 and to initiate educational campaigns.
Meanwhile, the California Film Extruders and Converters Association in Newport Beach, Calif., plans to unveil its own plan June 12 at a meeting in Cerritos, Calif. Group leaders hope the trademarked concept, known as stripes2stripes, will boost curbside recycling of plastic bags if CFECA's members - and other stakeholders - are willing to support the concept, said CFECA President Pete Grande, who is also chief executive officer of Command Packaging in Vernon, Calif.
``It is up to individual member companies to decide on the program,'' Grande said in a telephone interview. ``But we think it is worthwhile and has merit, if done properly.''
California activist and lawyer Stephen Joseph, known mostly for his efforts to ban trans fats from food, proposed the campaign for CFECA. Joseph is also CEO of Stripes2stripes LLC of Tiburon, Calif.
In an article in the CFECA June newsletter, Joseph wrote that the new program would help manufacturers identify bags that are recyclable by stripes, preferably green, in the lower right-hand corner of the bag. And, between the stripes would be the Web address stripes2stripes.org.
He said major plastic bag manufacturers have agreed to participate and a pilot program would get under way midyear in Marin County, an area about 30 miles north of San Francisco.
Joseph plans to expand the program to the rest of the United States and Canada in 2008 and 2009.
Grande, in a note to members in the same newsletter, called the concept ``a revolutionary, yet practical, campaign that will allow consumers to easily and effectively recycle plastic film and bags. It is our belief that this could become the blueprint for the entire country, which would change the way the world looks at plastic bags,'' he said.
In a similar vein, the PBA campaign - which will include the new logo and a combination of at-store and outdoor display advertising - is ``about changing behaviors, not a creating a big bang upfront,'' said Andy DeVilling, vice president of sales for StarPak Ltd., one of the SuperBag Corp. companies based in Houston and a member of Delray Beach, Fla.-based PBA.
``It is all about education, getting people involved and using stores and community stakeholders to show them that bags are 100 percent recyclable,'' DeVilling said. He added that the key to success is the signs, the bins and the placement of both.
``The signage has to be recognizable, easy to spot and easy to find as you walk into the store. We believe recycling is the answer,'' he said.
DeVilling said the PBA would not use ``a cookie-cutter approach,'' but would work with communities across the U.S. to tailor the program to their needs, with additional rollouts likely to be six months away.
San Francisco passed a law earlier this year requiring grocery stores with more than $2 million in sales, and retailers and pharmacy chains with five or more stores to use only recyclable paper bags, reusable cloth bags or compostable plastic bags at checkout counters. That law goes into effect Nov. 20.
More than a half-dozen cities and counties are considering similar measures with Oakland scheduled to consider a similar measure June 26 and Los Angeles studying the issue with a report due July 10.
That is why Grande is hopeful Joseph's proposal will catch on and end the days of the industry being seen as ``this environmental blight.''
``The industry has to participate by identifying every bag that is recyclable with a national symbol so consumers can easily identify'' carryout bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags and other film products that can be recycled, said Grande. ``If the consumers understand what is recyclable, they will do it.''
At the same time, said Grande, ``we need to make it simple for [materials recovery facilities] to sort and recycle plastic bags without making it expensive.''
That means educating consumers to place plastic bags in plastic bags for optimum ease of collection and recycling, and linking MRFs with buyers so they are willing to process the bags, he said.
Unless cities, counties, states and waste haulers all accept this, it won't work, Grande said.