Do we want to bag the use of plastic grocery bags? Judging by the testimony at the Homer City Council meeting Monday night, the answer is ‘yes’ from many in the community. The council responded by passing an ordinance to ban plastic bags.
Those plastic white grocery bags symbolize a modern problem: they are everywhere, useful and will never biodegrade. The bags are found on roadways, they get into the water and pose environmental threats. But with responsible handling and recycling, the bags are no more hazardous than tin cans.
The problem is in the responsible handling or disposing of all plastic.
Consider that some of the playground equipment at Karen Hornaday Park is made of recycled plastic products. Plastics can be recycled into useful, hardy products, even clothing. It’s hard to get the straight picture, since we are so far removed from the plants where plastics are recycled into new items. But apparently, news travels whenever a proposal is made to ban use, this time to a company called Hilex Poly in St. Louis, Mo. Homer received a letter this month, addressed to Mayor Jim Hornaday, from Phillip Rozenski, the director of marketing for the recycling company.
He wanted to discourage Homer from making the ban.
“I wanted to share some information about the real impacts of bag bans and an alternative – recycling – that achieves the goal of reducing litter while protecting the 30,800 Americans employed by the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry,” he wrote.
The growth in “green jobs” has added an important new labor segment to the American work force. Apparently, any down turn in consumer use of the plastic bags threatens jobs, Rozenski said.
Through their Bag 2 Bag program, the company enables people to deposit their used plastic bags and wrap into bins at local retailers for recycling. According to Hilex’ claims, 2011 the recycled 35 million pounds of post consumer plastic bags, sacks and wraps.
Stores have receptacles for collecting the bags. But do they really get recycled? Every few years or so, the Kenai Peninsula Borough answers the questions, contending indeed there is a robust recycling program. At the Homer Transfer Facility, it’s especially important to recycle in order to keep costs down for transporting trash to Central Kenai’s landfill.
Bob Malone, the manager of Safeway, said the company has its own recycling process. The freight trucks that leave Homer contain cardboard and plastic, shrink wrap. “It all gets put on our trucks and we send it back to Safeway warehouses. They take care of it for us,” Malone said.
People are also getting creative with how they recycle the bags. A woman showed Malone a purse she had acquired from a Homer business made of recycled plastic as it can be “knit” into rugs and purses. Retailing a new product adds back into the economy.
There’s a new economic opportunity for a business willing to go into re-useable sacks.
The public discussion can’t help but be good for us as a community. The need for recycling diligence raises public awareness in that regard.
Don’t stop at the ban – continue to recycle in the coming months as Homer reaches through a transition period to get away from plastics overall.
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