Bottom line, top priority (sort of)
I was hauling a couple of 50-gallon bags of plastic film out of Petco the other day and a woman was looking at me with obvious curiosity. “I am collecting this stuff to recycle it,” I explained to her and went on to answer her questions about where it went. She was very interested so I told her about our plastic bag drop-off sites here in Solana Beach. I assumed that she must already be recycling her plastic bags at the grocery store and suggested that she could certainly continue to do that. Her response surprised me and is what prompted this month’s column.
She told me she had read an article two or three years ago that indicated that grocery stores where she had been taking them were collecting plastic bags in the front of their stores only to haul the collected plastic out to the back and throw it away with the rest of the trash.
I have searched the local papers’ archives and cannot find the article; however, my guess is that if she is misunderstanding plastic recycling she is not the only one. Much of the plastic film (plastic bags, newspaper covers, dry cleaning covers, plastic covering on boxes of water bottles, plastic covering paper towels/toilet paper) collected at grocery stores, for example, is shipped to the stores’ distribution centers and sold overseas. You can be sure that if you are taking your plastic back to the grocery store it is being recycled and definitely not thrown away.
While plastic film recycling is worthwhile environmentally, it also makes sense economically for any businesses that generate this type of waste. Recycling reduces overall trash hauling costs and generates some income in the form of payment for the recycled plastic.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak with representatives from Callaway Golf in Carlsbad about their very successful waste diversion program. Callaway Golf recycles all of the shrink wrap covering pallets of delivered merchandise, as well as all plastic film that their merchandise is delivered in. Each one of their golf clubs, for example, is individually wrapped in plastic, which adds up to quite a bit of recyclable material. Senior Environmental and Safety Engineer Doug Casey showed me one of his company’s monthly waste and recycling reports which illustrated how 2.7 tons of plastic film was collected and recycled in the month we looked at. Not only was this waste kept out of the county’s landfills but the cost of hauling came off his company’s bottom line. Casey also pointed out that the company received payment for the plastic film as well.
Many of you may wonder what actually happens to this recycled plastic film. Where does it go once it’s been collected and baled? The baled plastic is transported to a processing center where it is shredded, heated up and then pressed through an extruder (like Play Doh) and pelletized. These recycled pellets are then ready for many different applications such as composite lumber, new plastic bags or a host of other plastic-containing products.
Finally, I want to point out an Assembly bill that has been introduced by California Assemblywoman Julia Brownley of Sacramento. AB 1998 proposes to ban all single-use plastic bags at large retail outlets and will require retailers to either make reusable bags available for purchase or to sell paper bags for no less than 25 cents apiece if a customer wants a bag. If passed into law, this would not go into effect until July 1, 2011. The city of Solana Beach has sent a letter of support for this bill. I will take a closer look at AB 1998 if it passes the upcoming senate vote.
Thank you again for your support of and interest in this column. Please never hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have at sbbaglady@gmail. com.
- Plastic bag recycling plan promoted by Solana Beach
- SB’s ‘bag lady’ targets dry cleaner plastic covers
- City of Solana Beach takes to plastic bag recycling program
- Fish art to line the coast
- Program putting the green in school lunches
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