Today’s Tom Sawyer


November 21, 2013 Comments (0) journal

The way of the dinosaurs

I saw this bin in front of the grocery store this morning. It’s not a store that I use often and I haven’t seen many of these plastic bag recycling bins around lately… not as many as I used to, anyway. I think it’s because they are pretty much BS, and most people are getting hip to that fact.

That plastics bags are recyclable isn’t the issue. It’s simply that they are not being recycled. Anywhere from .5% to 3% of all bags wind up being recycled. In Washington, more than half of recycling facilities do not even accept plastic bags and 70 percent of Washington recyclers want disposable plastic bags removed from the waste system. In the words of Jeff Murray, vice president of Far West Fibers, the largest recycler in Oregon, “Plastic bags and other thin-film plastic is the number-one enemy of the equipment we use. More than 300,000 plastic bags are removed from our machines every day — and since most of the removal has to be done by hand, that means more than 25 percent of our labor costs involves plastic-bag removal.”

In the unlikely event that plastic bags are actually recycled, they are not typically recycled into other plastic bags; they are made into items like plastic lumber and siding, which are (unfortunately), not recyclable. The best you can hope for is one generation removed from the landfill.

Like the dinosaurs they are made from, these bags are destined for extinction. It’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen.