Plastic Bags reduction, recycling

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					Plastic Bags and the
Reusable Revolution

       Tim Farnan
             Presentation Outline
• The history of plastic bags
• Issues
   –   How many bags
   –   Paper or Plastic
   –   Recycling bags
   –   Reusable Bags: the alternative
• Reusable Bags
   – Trends and research
• Reduction Efforts
   – In Minnesota
   – Other government approaches
   – Retailer approaches
History of the Plastic
 • 1977-- Plastic Bags
   introduced to US

 • 1982 --“T-shirt” bags

 • 1996 – 4 out of 5 grocery
   bags are plastic

 • 2000s – biodegradable plastic
   and degradable plastic bags
   are introduced
    Why are we paying so much
     attention to plastic bags?
• There are lots and lots of them
• Plastic bags have a low recycling rate
• Plastic bags are a problem material
• Viable alternatives exist
• Plastic bags have become a symbol of
• Issue receives lots of media and legislative
        How many are there?
• Estimates vary widely
  – 100 billion – 380 Billion in the US each year
  – Up to 1,000,000,000,000 worldwide each
• Not tracked by US EPA or MPCA
• Local grocer with 21 Metro Area stores
  distributes ~ 31,200,000 bags annually
• State of MN generates 128,000 tons of
  plastic film annually.
Paper or
Paper Bags
  – More easily recyclable
  – 1 paper bag = 1.5
    plastic bags
  – Less likely to be litter
  – Use more energy
  – Uses more water
  – Less durable for reuse
      Plastic Bags
  – Less energy consumed
     • 71% less energy consumption during
     • 36% less over life cycle of product

  – Less water consumed
     • 1004 gallons of water to produce
       1000 paper bags and 58 gallons of
       water to produce 1500 plastic bags

  – Fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions
     • 39% less greenhouse gas emissions
       than uncomposted paper bags
     Plastic Bag
  – recycling options are
    • Drop-off instead of
    • Estimates suggest
      recycling rate is below 1%
  – Sorting and processing is
  – Common source of litter
        Plastic Bag Recycling
• Recycling rate is less than 1%

• Difficult to collect curbside, primarily done
  with drop-offs

• reduction and reuse are viable options for
  a shopping bag
    Recycling Plastic Bags and Film in

•   3.25 million pounds of plastic bags and film recycled in the first four
    years of the It's in the Bag program.

•   Manufacturers, Grocers, and retailers can participate - material picked
    up on a scheduled route for a collection fee.

•   Contact Mark Blaiser at Minnesota Waste Wise at (651) 292-4663 or for more information.

•   Voucher Incentive Program: plastic recycling, waste assessments,
    food waste recovery and energy efficiency/waste reduction.
  The next frontier. . .

Reusable Bags
        The case for reusables
• Disposable bags cost retailers an estimated $4 billion

• Common interests present opportunity for Industry and
  Government partnership

• Any type of bag (paper, plastic, cloth) can be reused.

• If each bag is used multiple times -- at least once a week
  -- four or five reusable bags can replace 520 plastic bags
  a year.
       The case for reusables
• Reduction and reuse are real and viable options

• There are documented reduction successes.
  Many communities have already shifted away
  from plastic bags.

• Consumers that adopt one ‘green’ behavior are
  more likely to self identify as ‘green’

• They work better
 Reusable Bag Considerations
• Cost: Prices range from $0.50 - $55
• Materials: Is it recycled content? Organic
  Cotton? Is there lead based paint?
• Manufacturing Origin: Were the bags
  made domestically or internationally?
• How often does it need to be used to be
• What style, size, and shape are
   What trends are we seeing?
• Reusable Bag sales are up 76% over last year
• Wal-Mart has goal to reduce plastic bag waste by 1/3
  by 2013 – 1/ reduction would eliminate 135 million
  pounds of plastic bag waste
• Giveaways, giveaways, and more giveaways
   – Home Depot 500,000 April 2008
   – Wal-Mart 1,000,000 April 2008
   – Reusable bags are the ‘it’ promotional item of 2008
• Whole Foods & Mississippi Market Co-op opt to not
  distribute plastic bags
• Aldi & Ikea charge for bags
• Estimates suggest between 10%-42% of consumers
  reuse shopping bags occasionally
What’s MPCA doing to address the
• Research
   – Reusable bag survey
   – Grocer Environmental Practices
• Promotions/ Social Marketing
   –   Living Green Expo
   –   Eco-Experience
   –   Selby Jazz Festival
   –   Rochester Women’s Expo/ Think
       Green Fair
• Grant funding
   – Minnesota Grocers Association
• Media Relations
                           Survey Data
53-58% of 2007 LGE & State
Fair survey respondents were
willing to try bringing a reusable
bag when shopping

Surveys in Blue Sky Guide,
Duluth News Tribune,
Worthington Daily Globe

• 43% of respondents have
brought their own bag at least
one time in their last five
shopping trips.

• In Metro area 50% of people
have brought their own bag at
least one time.

• Southern MN only 20% have
brought their own bag.
 Barriers to bringing your own bag:
For those who brought a reusable bag at least one
  time in the last 5 shopping trips,
      91% “I forgot’ the bag”
      49% “I need bags for my recycling”
      40% “I use the paper or plastic bags for other
             purposes (other than recycling)”

For those who did not bring a reusable bag,
      60% “I use the paper or plastic bags for other
           purposes (other than recycling)”
      51% “I forgot the bag”
      47% “I need bags for my recycling”
Grocer Environmental Practices

        • Survey of grocers statewide
        • Last completed in 1997
        • Measures participation and
          interest in:
          – Recycling, organics
            management & waste
          – Energy Efficiency
          – Consumer Programs
              Social Marketing

27,500 bags distributed at 4 events
to those who promised to use them.
 Photos posted at: web traffic after Eco-
    Experience promotion
   What other approaches are out
   there for plastic bag reduction?
• Bag Bans
   – Applies to plastic bags
   – Mandate allowable thickness of plastic
• Mandatory Recycling & Stocking Reusable Bags
   – Typically impact grocers and/or larger stores
   – Often linked to square footage or annual sales
• Fees for bags
   – 90% + reduction
   – Applied by individual retailers and governments
• Increased promotion of reusable shopping bags
   – Voluntary efforts by retailers to reduce costs and environmental
   – Government promotion
     The Retailer’s Perspective
Philosophical Position:
• Why single me out?
• Recycling is the responsibility of recyclers.
• Customer service is essential – not offering free
  bags is poor customer service.
• We’re already doing our part.

The Numbers:
• Estimated cost of $4 billion for retailers*
• 93.5% of retailers offer reusable bags*
• 55.7% offer an incentive when used*
• Average cash rebate: $0.05*
                                                *Food Marketing Institute

• March of 2002 – introduced PlasTax
• 15 cent charge for each plastic bag
• Resulted in 90% drop in consumption
  – 1 billion fewer bags consumed annually
• Raised $9.6 million dollars for
  environmental fund in year one.
                                bbc news August 2002
• July 2008 – city council passed $0.20 fee on all
  disposable bags
• "The answer to the question 'paper or plastic?'
  has officially become 'neither'," Mayor Greg
• Estimate 360 million plastic bags used annually
  prior to fee – anticipate 50% reduction
• City plans to give at least one free reusable bag
  to each household
• Large grocers keep a $0.05 of the fee, small
  grocers keep $0.20

                                   Seattle Times July 2008
              San Francisco
• Plastic Bag Ban passed March 2007
• First year saw reduction of 60 million plastic
• Thick, reusable plastic bags are still allowed
• City leaders hope to promote compostable bags
  – curbside composting programs are widely
• Similar efforts have brought on plastic industry
                                  NPR march 27 2008
• Achieved a 92% reduction in plastic bag use
• Installed ‘bag the plastic bag” program in March
  of 2007
• Had consumed 70 million plastic bags annually
• Offered reusable bags for $0.59 or plastic bags
  for $0.05
• Proceeds from disposable bag sales go to non-
  profit conservation organization
• UK and Australian stores are now plastic bag
                                        Ikea website
What are retailers doing to address
          the problem?
             Tim Farnan
   Minnesota Pollution Control
     520 Lafayette Road North
         St Paul MN 55155
     651.296.6300 (until Nov19)
    651.757.2348 (after Nov 19)