Solana Beach residents now have another option for recycling plastic bags besides the bins at the grocery stores with the city's program to collect the bags and sell them to a company that makes composite decking.
"This is reusing to the max," said Debbie Sandler, the resident who proposed the recycling program to the city. "We'll be walking on deck made of bags that would otherwise be sitting in a landfill."
Residents can take clean and dry plastic shopping bags, newspaper bags, dry cleaning covers and other plastic packaging to collection bins in the lobbies of City Hall, the fire station and La Colonia Community Center.
Trex Co., a Virginia-based manufacturer specializing in recycled deck and fence products, provided a miniature baler to compress the bags into 50 pound bales.
Trex will transport the bales to its plant near Reno, Nevada where the plastic will be transformed into 100 percent recycled lumber.
The program comes at no cost to the city. EDCO, the city's commercial waste hauler, is transporting the plastic to the baler in the city's public works yard for free. And after the first 30,000 pounds, Trex will pay the city 15 cents per pound of plastic.
Trex has been targeting businesses with smaller volumes of plastic that still want to recycle for a new recycling program. Solana Beach has the third miniature Trex baler in San Diego County, and is the first municipality.
"It's very unique," said Nick Candela, a Trex senior buyer. "But Solana Beach was very excited about it and we need people who were enthusiastic about it to make it successful."
Building on success
The program is building upon the momentum built up at Skyline Elementary School, which has been recycling plastic bags for a Wal-Mart competition for the past two years.
Sandler introduced the school program and wanted to expand access to plastic recycling. While residents can take their bags to the grocery or drug stores, the receptacles can be hard to find.
"Getting the city involved takes this to a whole new level," Sandler said. "It's not just a few green moms anymore, it's something a lot bigger."
Californians use 19 billion plastic bags a year, Sandler said, and only a small percentage are recycled. The rest contribute to litter, water pollution and landfills.
The ultimate goal of the program is to raise awareness about plastic consumption and hopefully encourage shoppers to cut their plastic bag use altogether, Sandler said.
Other larger cities have banned plastic bags outright, but smaller cities are more vulnerable to litigation, said Danny King, the city's environmental programs manager.
That's why Solana Beach is starting with a voluntary program. If it is successful, King said he hopes it will expand to commercial centers.
To learn more about recycling programs in Solana Beach,
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about plastic bags.