Editor’s note: This guest post is by Sandi Childs, Director of Film and Flexible Programs for APR, the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers
In case you missed it, Bowie Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC with a population of just over 56,000, announced that their curbside recycling program would no longer be accepting plastic bags. In a piece May 28, 2014 in the Maryland Gazette, the city explained that bags can damage recycling equipment and often blow out of curbside bins, which residents – who are trying to do the right thing – often don’t know. But what was striking, and ultimately encouraging, about Bowie’s announcement was that they didn’t leave it at that. Solid Waste Superintended Melvin Thompson went on to provide residents with a solution. He urged the citizens of Bowie to utilize their plastic bag take-back network, provided by retail stores, and directed them to the zip-code locator at www.plasticfilmrecycling.org to find a nearby store to drop-off their bags. Places like Lowe’s, Walmart, Target, Kroger and many other retailers have recycling bins at the front of the store to collect these polyethylene (PE) plastic bags. Even better, not only can residents recycle grocery bags, but also can include additional PE film packages such as bread bags, produce bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, as well as product overwraps around diapers, paper towels and bathroom tissue. We commend Bowie for providing residents with solutions oriented information.
By participating in retail recycling, residents supply recyclers with valuable material. According to a recent report by Moore Recycling, the recycling of postconsumer plastic film packaging surged 116 million pounds, or 11 percent, in 2013 to reach a reported 1.14 billion pounds. In fact, there’s been a 74% increase in polyethylene film recycling since 2005, when industry first began collecting the data.
This type of plastic goes in to a range of products including durable composite lumber for outdoor decks and fencing, home building products, lawn and garden products, crates, pipe, and film for new plastic packaging.
Steering residents to the retail network for plastic film collection is a great way to explain to residents that film plastics are equally recyclable as any material in their curbside bin. And, recycling these valuable products is as easy as a trip to your grocery store. There are more than 18,000 drop off bins across the country, and with national chain retail participation, there is almost always a drop-off location nearby. Bowie’s announcement solves their problem, without putting a dent in recovery efforts. That’s a message we’d love to see more municipalities “recycle.”
Sandi Childs is leading APR’s efforts to expand PE bag and film recovery to supply the needs of APR’s members, and to educate consumers about the recyclability of film plastics. Prior to APR, Sandi worked for Coca-Cola Recycling as a Recovery Development Manager for eight years. Sandi started her career recycling PET plastics, as Recycling Manager for Southeastern Container and then as Eastern Regional Director for NAPCOR. Sandi has a BS in Human Ecology from Ramapo College of New Jersey and a Masters in Environmental Science from UNC-Chapel Hill.