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Recycle plastic bags - Throw a monkey wrench into the recycling program???

  Recycle plastic bags and throw a monkey wrench into city recycling programs???

I hate those annoying government recycling programs which always lose money and the only environment they make better is the wallets of the special interest groups the government let run the program.

After reading this article I may just start recycling all my plastic bags!!!!


Troublesome plastic bags cause recycling headache

By Betty Reid The Republic | azcentral.com Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:34 PM

Don Herring takes recycling seriously. The Phoenix resident tries to follow city guidelines as he does his environmental duty, including rinsing out empty soup and dog-food cans before tossing them into the bin.

But until recently, Herring, 58, didn’t realize the city doesn’t recycle the plastic bags he has been including with his recyclables.

“I don’t want plastic bags at landfills, and I know they take longer to break down,” Herring said.

Because the city doesn’t recycle the bags, they eventually will end up in a landfill. But before they get there, they can cause problems. If workers sorting recyclables don’t catch them, they can gum up machines, costing time and money.

As a result, most Valley cities prefer that residents not throw plastic grocery bags into their curbside recycling bins. It’s a message cities have tried to get out for years, but the problem persists.

A recent survey of Phoenix residents showed 11 percent threw plastic grocery bags in city bins.

The statistics haven’t changed much in the past five years, despite efforts to educate the public.

There’s no data that captures the number of bags that end up in Valley recycling bins, but cities agree it’s a nuisance.

Some communities have launched efforts to capture the bags before they hit the bins. Glendale and Chandler use the bags at dog parks.

As part of the five-year anniversary of Bag Central Station — a program encouraging residents to return the plastic bags to local grocery stores — Phoenix officials are once again trying to get the message out: Stop throwing your plastic bags into your bins.

Confusion abounds

Americans use about 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste every year, according to the Clean Air Council.

Phoenix’s most recent research about plastic-bag recycling was finished in February. The city also conducted similar research in 2008 and 2007.

According to the most recent research, 72 percent of plastic-bag users found other purposes for he bags, while 11 percent returned them to the store and 11 percent disposed of them in the city’s recycling container.

The previous study showed 10percent pitched plastic bags into recycle bins in 2008, down from 12percent in 2007.

Experts say many people believe they can recycle all plastic. After all, plastic bottles are fine.

Phoenix resident Jenna Lahti, 25, reuses her plastic bags for dirty diapers.

But she can see why it’s confusing: People see that plastic jugs are recyclable and assume plastic bags are, too.

But the issue isn’t so much whether companies can recycle the lightweight plastic bags.

It has more to do with the economics of it, said Nicholas Brown, director of University Sustainability Practices at Arizona State University.

“It has to do with markets,” Brown said. “Plastic bags, called ‘film’ in the recycling industry, create difficult problems. Because they’re very lightweight, they aren’t worth much until hundreds of thousands are accumulated, and it takes a relatively large amount of person power to collect a pound of bags.”

Cities take their recycling bins to processing facilities that sell the recyclable items for market rate.

The companies then share a cut of the sales with the cities.

Problems bags can cause

Despite the city-commissioned survey, Albert Alvarez, a Phoenix recycling-information specialist, said he believes people have changed their behavior.

He sees fewer plastic bags at the transfer stations where workers and machines sort the recyclable items.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t cause problems.

At the North Gateway Transfer Station in north Phoenix, a truck dumps the morning collection of recycle bins.

Heaps of empty boxes that once contained diapers, fruit, cereal, beer or pizza tumble out. The load also contains air filters, aluminum cans, glass jars and plastic grocery bags.

A front-loader places piles on a conveyor belt and workers manually catch plastic bags that zoom by. But some bags make it through, and they wrap themselves around the wheels of the sorting machine at the end of the belt.

The machine grinds to a halt, and workers pull out the plastic bags.

The jams happen two to four times per day, creating a 15-minute shutdown each time, said Terry Gellenbeck, Phoenix’s solid-waste administrative analyst.

This stoppage costs about $1million per year at both the city’s transfer stations, city officials say.

And because the bags become dirty in the process, Phoenix officials say they can’t recycle them — so they end up in the dump.

It’s not just a Phoenix problem.

Waste Management, which contracts with six Valley cities, pulls plastic bags on the conveyor belt, and it also uses a vacuum duct to remove them.

“This adds labor and cost to the processing of tons of recyclables entering the facility each day,” spokeswoman Janette Coates said.

Other options

City officials say the best way to prevent the problems at the transfer stations is to get residents to take the bags elsewhere.

Glendale and Chandler launched programs to reuse plastic bags at dog parks.

Chandler operates a plastic-bag recycling project at 35 of its 52 parks.

The city placed recycling containers at the community center in 2004.

The community responded.

“Many of the plastic bags used in this program would normally go from the grocery store to the home to the trash can and ultimately end up in a landfill,” Chandler’s website says. “With this program the bags still end up in the landfill, but first they are efficiently utilized one more time to serve the public good.”

Glendale placed collection boxes called “Bag It” at its fire stations libraries and City Hall last year.

The city collected plastic bags, and workers placed them in dispensers at dog parks.

The program found success: About 80,000 plastic bags filled the city’s storage facility faster than workers could place them at the parks.

Peoria placed containers for plastic bags in city buildings and libraries, and workers empty the boxes, weigh the bags and take them to local vendor for recycling or reuse.

Many Valley cities also participate in Bag Central Station.

The Arizona Food Marketing Alliance, an advocacy group for the state’s food industry, began a partnership with Phoenix in 2007, placing Bag Central Station recycle bins in its member stores.

Other cities followed.

Through the program, residents can toss plastic bags in bins at the grocery store so workers can turn them into other products such as plastic furniture and decking.

If people take the bags to the grocery store, they are clean and are perfect for recycling, said Stephanie Ribodal Romero, Phoenix spokeswoman.

“Proper disposal would prevent littering. It’s a conservation of resources instead of having to make more bags, reusing them and putting them in the right place saves the time, money and the resources,” Gellenbeck said. “You save the planet by not allowing them to go out into the environment for animals to eat.”


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