Monday, October 18, 2010
StockSpock provides link discussing the problem of recycling plastic bags
Myth: Recycling Can Fix This
Recycling has its place - however, it's not the solution to the plastic bag problem.
Recycling rates for plastic bags are extremely low. Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags end up getting recycled.
In addition, economics of recycling plastic bags are not appealing. From the process of sorting, to the contamination of inks and the overall low quality of the plastic used in plastics bags, recyclers would much rather focus on recycling the vast quantities of more viable materials such as soda and milk bottles that can be recycled far more efficiently. If the economics don't work, recycling efforts don't work.
For example, it costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32 (Jared Blumenfeld, director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment as reported by Christian Science Monitor).
Furthermore many bags collected for recycling never get recycled. A growing trend is to ship them to countries like India and China which are rapidly becoming the dumping grounds for the Western world's glut of recyclables. Rather than being recycled they are cheaply incinerated under more lax environmental laws.
Even if recycling rates of plastic bags increase dramatically, it doesn't solve other significant problems, such as the use of non-renewable resources and toxic chemicals in their original production, or the billions of bags that wind up in our environment each year that eventually breakdown into tiny toxic bits. What to do? Choose to reuse!