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February 08, 2008

Plastic bags tough to recycle, tougher to ban

Medill Reports 01.31.08

In Illinois, members of a recycling task force are brainstorming ways to reduce plastic bag waste but an outright ban on the petroleum-based bags is not likely.

However, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Plastic Bag Recycling Act, calling for a voluntary, two-year pilot program in Lake County to determine the cost to retailers who implement plastic bag recycling programs.

But some, like Vincent Cobb, are inspired by Ireland's "Plastax" example and think it could be implemented in the United States. "Retailers were resisting it initially, but at the end of the day they’re going to save a heck of a lot of money," said Cobb, who founded Chicago-based Reusablebags.com, which sells its own line of reusable shopping bags.

Our Take: Measures like this highlight the 2 extremes - on one side is a complete ban of plastic bags, which puts retailers on the defensive, and on the other is a mandate to recycle bags, which does nothing to curb consumption. We're interested in the middle ground, and advocate reusable bags which both curb consumption and limit the use of plastic bags.

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the ironic thing here is that plastic bags are probably the most re-used forms of garbage there is. Here’s what the ban on plastic bags means in real life: the average, bill-paying citizen will have to spend more time, money and energy carrying his/her groceries home while big oil companies continue to sell more oil than ever (in the form of gas) at whatever inflated price tickles their fancy. Banning the use of plastic bags is an environmental red-herring. so what’s worse, throwing away oil in the form of plastic bags, or pouring oil into the atmosphere in the form of car exhaust? if there’s one thing oil is good for, it’s for making plastic.

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