Recycling of plastic bags is a weak argument in a losing battle. Yesterday, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a plastic bag ban, three years after passing an earlier bag ordinance that was overturned with the help of the plastic industry.
Hilex Poly, a US plastic bag manufacturer and self-proclaimed largest plastic bag and film recycler in the nation, responded to the City's decision in a statement:
"We are disappointed but not surprised by the result of today's vote by the Seattle City Council to rush toward a plastic bag ban and impose a paper bag tax. By voting to implement a ban on plastic bags, the City of Seattle misses the opportunity to lead the way toward the meaningful reduction of litter through increased statewide recycling efforts…Increased plastics recycling provides a more effective solution for consumers and the environment."
Bag ban opponents should no longer be surprised by this type of outcome. Across the nation numerous plastic bag bans are being passed as communities become more and more fed up with the wasteful and unnecessary single-use plastics in their lives. Jurisdictions pay millions to clean up plastic bags from streets, waterways, and open areas.
In California alone, sixteen local governments have adopted single-use bag ordinances, with dozens others in various stages of the process. See the list of bag ordinances passed here.
The plastic industry is grasping at straws when it uses the common argument that recycling is a viable solution to deal with plastic bag litter. Even in California where, since 2007 state law has mandated plastic bag recycling programs in all supermarkets and large retailers, the recycling rate in 2009 was only three percent. The single-use plastic bag's lightweight and airborne characteristics make it a difficult and expensive material to collect and properly recycle, especially when its end market is limited.