The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has released a policy on bans and fees for recyclable paper and plastic bags approved during its July Board Meeting. The policy is in response to increased efforts across the country to ban or apply fees to such bags for grocery shopping and other purposes without taking the impacts to the recycling industry into account.
“ISRI members that recycle paper and plastic bags are quite concerned that policy makers are banning bags and creating fees without considering the real impact on recycling, and the recycling industry. No matter how good the intentions, these policy discussions should not be made in a vacuum,” says Robin Wiener, President of ISRI. “Rather than bans and fees that take away jobs and increase costs to consumers, policy makers should take advantage of the great economic and environmental opportunities associated with responsibly recycling these bags.”
Notes ISRI, the recycling industry is a pivotal player in environmental protection and sustainability. In the U.S., approximately 77% of paper mills rely on recovered fiber to make some or all of their products, thanks in part to recovered paper’s significant cost and energy savings. Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, 79 gal of oil, 7,000 gal of water, and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. According to the U.S. EPA, plastic recycling results in significant energy savings, an estimated 50 to 75 million Btus/ton of material recycled.
“Policy makers and consumers are often surprised to learn the important economic role that paper and plastic bags play in the continuous life cycle of paper and plastic products,” says Joel Litman, President of Texas Recycling/Surplus, Inc., and ISRI’s Paper Stock Industries Chapter. “Our company is designed to recycle these bags into valuable, commodity-grade materials that are then sold to manufacturing plants to make finished products around the globe. This is a win-win for the local economy and the environment.”
ISRI’s new policy also encourages retailers to provide convenient collection for plastic bags. Many retailers have convenient bag collection programs in place that provide a valuable revenue stream. Increased efforts by retailers to collect and recycle used bags will offer the convenience paper and plastic bags provide while reaping the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. In 2011, an estimated 151 million lb of bags and sacks were collected for recycling and increased 19% over 2010.
In its policy, ISRI says it:
• Promotes a free and fair, competitive, market‐based system for the trade of recyclable materials such as paper and plastic bags.
• Supports a competitive marketplace that does not restrict, direct, or interfere with the free flow of recyclable materials.
• Opposes bans and fees on paper and plastic bags that are being manufactured into useful commodity grade materials and sold into viable, commercial markets without subsidies or noncompetitive, fixed pricing.
• Promotes the proper recycling and economic opportunities associated with the collection, processing, and reuse in finished products such as paper and plastic bags.
• Supports requiring retailers to provide convenient collection for recycling of plastic bags offered in their stores.”