Feb 28 - Pressure Grows to Reduce Plastic Bag Debris

Consumers in the U.S. accumulate an estimated 100 billion plastic shopping bags a year, with less than five percent of them are being recycled. Because plastic bags make up a large chunk of the plastic materials in landfills, manufacturers and retailers, especially grocery stores, have been targeted to help reduce these numbers and set up waste-reduction programs.

In July of this year, most grocery stores and retailers will need to set up recycling programs for plastic bags, while also offering reusable bags in their stores. Global action has already occurred, with Ireland's bag tax and Bangladesh outlawing plastic shopping bags. One particular CA grocer is also testing a biodegradable bag. Gilbert Chan of the Sacramento Bee reports.

But manufacturers and the supermarket industry have battled bans or any recycling fee similar to the deposits charged for beverage cans and bottles. Officials prefer public awareness campaigns like the voluntary program launched in San Francisco last year -- a drive that grocers say resulted in a usage drop of 7.6 million bags. San Francisco officials have not confirmed the number.

"There are more effective ways than just banning a product. A number of stores are beginning to offer reusable bags," said Dave Heylen, spokesman for the California Grocers Association. "We need to get the bags out of the waste stream through recycling and reuse."

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