A website called Plastic Bag Ban Report documents that trend (encompassing paper bags, too) with a grinding regularity. Last month, L.A.'s City Council voted "No store shall provide a plastic or paper single-use carryout bag to a customer." This month, Santa Fe got plastic bags banned and attached a fee to paper bags. Now Laredo, Texas and Vail, Colorado are mulling over similar policies.
Just yesterday, an interesting development in recycling—one that you're bound to have mixed feelings about—as brought to our attention. As more individual businesses and municipalities are starting to ban both paper and plastic bags, or impose fees to discourage their use, it's pissing off a certain group of people. No, not consumers. Recyclers.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, or ISRI, yesterday fired a blast out of their e-mail gun stating "Policymakers are banning bags and creating fees without considering the real impact on recycling, and the recycling industry... Rather than bans and fees that take away jobs and increase costs to consumers, policy makers should take advantage of the great economic and environmental opportunities associated with responsibly recycling these bags." They followed this up with some surprising statistics:In the United States, approximately 77 percent of paper mills rely on recovered fiber to make some or all of their products thanks in part to recovered paper's significant cost and energy savings. Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, 79 gallons of oil, 7,000 gallons of water, and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. According to the U.S. EPA, plastic recycling results in significant energy savings, an estimated 50-75 million Btus/ton of material recycled.
"Policymakers and consumers are often surprised to learn the important economic role that paper and plastic bags play in the continuous life-cycle of paper and plastic products," said Joel Litman, president of Texas Recycling/Surplus, Inc., and ISRI's Paper Stock Industries Chapter. "Our company is designed to recycle these bags into valuable commodity grade materials that are then sold to manufacturing plants to make finished products around the globe. This is a win-win for the local economy and the environment."
It's a strange development, to be sure. Think of the "Military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower warned us about: It was started to solve a problem, but once that problem went away or became significantly reduced, the machine became too profitable to a subset of people for us to dismantle it. We seemingly have it within our power to ban disposable paper and plastic bags, yet an industry has cropped up to recycle these things, turning our waste into their lifeblood. Is the Recycling-industrial complex here to stay? Do any of you foresee a future where we could potentially draw it down, or is the genie out of the (plastic) bottle?