Recycling plastic bags is not as easy as lobbying groups like the American Progressive Bag Alliance want you to believe (“Plastic bags are reusable and recyclable,” Aug. 23). This organization represents the Plastics Industry Association, a trade group that includes Shell Polymers, LyondellBasell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Phillips, DowDuPont and Novolex — all of which profit from the continued production of plastics.
Plastic is a byproduct of oil and when oil prices are low, there is almost no market for plastic recycling, meaning it’s more economical for manufacturers to buy virgin plastic than to buy recycled plastic feedstock. Outsourcing our plastic problems abroad has left us with limited local recycling options. China accepted over half of America’s recycling for nearly three decades but in early 2018, China banned waste imports due to low demand for recycled plastic (there’s no money to be made) and high contamination rates (25% or more).
Scrambling to find a successor, Southeast Asia has begrudgingly become America’s temporary dumping ground, although similar waste import bans are in the works. TREX, one of the lone U.S.-based plastic repurposing companies, has a 40,000-pound collection weight minimum and strict bale requirements. That means most local recycling facilities are unable to participate.
The final option is to pay to have bags collected and burned as waste to energy. Not the preferred option, nor what consumers think will happen when dropping their plastic bags into the blue recycling bin. There is a waste and recycling crisis in the United States. At MOM’s Organic Market, we strive to accept hard-to-recycle items in an effort to facilitate and promote recycling in its many forms, giving our communities the opportunity to participate in advancing productive systems.
However, we need to promote behavior that changes future catastrophic outcomes and stops enabling the plastic industry. If we’re going to protect the environment, we need to move away from the disposable mentality. The answer is not to recycle plastic bags; it’s to not use them in the first place. MOM’s will no longer accept plastic bags.