As a recycling professional, I found many misleading statements in Curtis Picard’s letter regarding proposed local ordinances to limit the use of plastic bags. His information is coming from the American Chemistry Council. Its mission is to promote the sale of these materials.
Plastic bag recycling rates are dismally low – less than 2.7 percent according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies. ACC’s own data indicate an even a lower rate. Plastic bag recycling relies on highly motivated participation. Curbside programs are rare and cause havoc with recycling facilities. Why not bring your own?
He also selectively quotes facts about plastics in the marine environment. The reports cited actually show plastic bags to be one of the most common items found in Maine coastal clean-ups.
The assertion that fees have had no positive impact is simply untrue. Independent reports on Washington, D.C.’s 5-cent (not 10-cent) fee indicate that 80 percent of residents used less plastic bags and 66 percent reported fewer littered plastic bags.
Finally, a well-written ordinance is not a tax. We already pay for the bags; it is embedded in the cost of the goods purchased. A small fee would simply change this from an indirect fee to a direct fee: it is your choice.
The inconvenient truth is that reducing plastic bag use is in conflict with the ACC’s mission. ACC’s and Picard’s time would be better spent listening to local retailers that are on the cutting edge of the movement to reduce waste and encourage a more circular economy.