New Report: Recycling Can't Solve Plastic Bag Problem
Voluntary and mandated recycling programs have proven to be a deterrent, at best, in solving plastic bag pollution. In fact, the state of California attempted to reduce bag litter by requiring grocery companies to place recycling bins in front of their stores. However, the state has seen no noticeable change in litter or waste from plastic bags. California’s program has only managed to increase plastic bag recycling by 2 percent in 3 years.
Environment Washington, a citizen-based advocacy group in the state of Washington, surveyed twenty-one municipalities and over 70% of respondents want plastic bags out of their recycling systems. The report, entitled A Solution Not In The Bag, was released on February 14th.
The plastics industry admits there is a problem with plastic pollution and insists that recycling can solve it. According to a new report from Environment Washington, recycling is not the answer.
Further Details from the Report:
- Plastic bags can get tangled in recyclers’ machinery, causing plants to shut down.
- Some recycling plants in Washington estimate spending 20 to 30 percent of their labor costs removing plastic bags from their machinery – on the order of $1,000 per day.
- Over half of Washington’s recycling facilities do not even accept plastic bags. For those facilities, 83% reported that their recycling stream was contaminated with plastic bags and it was causing problems.
- When plastic bags pollute mixed recyclables, they get tangled in recyclers’ machinery, causing plants to shut down.
- Every year, Washingtonians use more than 2 billion plastic bags.
- Numbers were not available for the state of Washington, however, according to the EPA, only 4.3 percent of all plastic bags in the US were recycled in 2010, down almost 2 percent from the previous year.
In addition to causing problems with recycling machinery, Environment Washington has claimed that plastic bags threaten wildlife. According to the group, whales, seals, salmon, and birds can ingest plastic bags, choke on them, or be harmed by toxins. In 2010, a gray whale was found dead in West Seattle with 20 plastic bags in its stomach, raising concern about how the bags threaten Puget Sound wildlife.
“We can’t recycle our way out of this plastic bag mess,” said Robb Krehbiel of Environment Washington. “To protect wildlife from plastic bags, we need to get rid of them.”
To read the full report, visit Environment Washington.