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Manufacturers Push Biodegradable Plastic Bags
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Next week, I’ll report from China about that country’s climate change challenges.
Last year, the city of San Francisco banned the use of most plastic bags in large supermarkets and pharmacies, and Whole Foods and Ikea stores across the country will soon cease using plastic bags. Now, pending legislation in New York and Alaska would impose a 15 cent per bag fee.
Shia Levitt reports on how bag manufacturers are reacting to this trend.
Mr. MIKE SKINNER (Chief Financial Officer, GP Plastics): I believe they saw the writing on the wall. Our newspapers contacted us within a week. At the end of the day, we manufacture what our customers want us to manufacture.
LEVITT: So, GP came up with its newest product a plastic bag it says degrades in the environment if exposed to oxygen. Skinner says an additive helps PolyGreen bags break down faster than conventional bags, including in landfills. He say Oakley Sung Oakley Sunglasses Outlet lasses Outlet s the process can take as few as four months if they get snagged on a tree branch or land on the side of the road.
Mr. SKINNER: Oxo biodegradable bags will disappear from the environment if they’re out free floating as litter.
LEVITT: Plastic’s high profile has accelerated other efforts to create and market alternatives, including bags that break down in water or sunlight. But it’s uncertain which newly marketed bags would be exempt from which bans. Many new bags don’t break down fast enough to be considered biodegradable, and there are other reasons why some environmentalists aren’t convinced.
Ms. BRENDA PLATT (Institute for Local Self Reliance): I don’t think designing plastics to degrade in the en Oakley Sunglasses Outlet vironment is a solution. Maybe they do degrade in four months, but, you know, is that fast enough? Is that the kind of products that we want to design?
LEVITT: Platt doesn’t think so. She says reusable, durable bags are the way to go long term, but in the meantime, solutions should focus on diverting more waste from landfills and on using renewable resources.
Ms. PLATT: We’re really trying to promote products that can be reused, recycled and composted.
LEVITT: Despite campaigns to change plastic bag consumption habits, industry trade groups aren’t worried about holding on to the market. So far, restrictions in San Francisco and at Whole Foods stores are projected to cost the billion dollar industry just a few million dollars per year.
Keith Christman of the industry trade group Progressive Bag Affiliates says bans and fees aren’t the answer.
Mr. KEITH CHRISTMAN (Senior Director of Packaging, Progressive Bag Affiliates): We clearly think that recycling is the best approach. This material is a very valuable resource and can be recycled into a new life.
LEVITT: A few companies use bags to make plastic lumber for fences and decks. One company started selling bags made from recycled bag content. Christman says consumers are starting to realize they can bring bags, dry cleaning covers and similar items to collection bins like grocery stores. Recycling rates are up, but they’re still less than 10 percent of the more than nine billion pounds of bags Americans use each year. Most of the remaining 90 percent still end up in landfills.
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