Recycle those plastic bags!

Monday, July 21, 2014

One picnic table equals 32,000 plastic shopping bags!

Yes, the equation does work! Those bags that you often see blowing in the wind or caught in the fence or tree, or taking up space in your storage area, can be transformed into useful products that help beautify the places that we enjoy. Simply take them to your local grocery store for recycling into outdoor furniture.

Studies show that as a consumer you feel strongly about the use of plastic shopping bags - in many different ways. Some of you feel that they are essential, some like them for the secondary uses such as waste basket liners, picking up animal waste litter, etc. Many of you feel that in order to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags, along with reducing their potential for being a source of litter we need to increase the use of re-useable bags.

For both you as a buyer and the store as the supplier, it is also a matter of economics - for the store it is costly to purchase plastic bags (paper as well as plastic). For you as a consumer (if the store didn't need to purchase the bags) your cost of products might be reduced accordingly. In Iowa it is estimated that we use over 555 million plastic bags per year.

Working in partnership with the Iowa Grocery Industry Association (IGIA) and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Iowa DNR) - Keep Iowa Beautiful led an effort to learn more about how you feel about the reduction in the use of both plastic and paper bags, increasing the recycling rate of bags and increasing the use of re-usable bags. The resulting program that was developed with IGIA is called "Build With Bags" and can be accessed on the IGIA web site - www.iowagrocers.com.

The program is working and the increased level of plastic bag recycling is producing products for use in the outdoors: picnic tables, benches, planters, waste and recycling receptacles, plastic lumber, etc. It takes 18,000 plastic bags to make a park bench and 32,000 to make a picnic table.

For all of us the success of the program will reduce the impact on environment, reduce our cost for products at the store and change our behavior pattern into remembering to bring the reusable bag(s) every time we go shopping. The next step will be to encourage other retail stores to join the program in reducing plastic bag use.

The conversion of the plastic bags into outdoor furniture is a great way to "close the loop" and show that products can be recycled into positive items.