Jarron Springer, president of the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association, responded to a post I left on my councilman’s Yahoo group about plastic bags. Thanks, Mr. Springer, for your insight. and for giving me permission to share your comments here. Springer discusses reusing plastic bags, which I have done. I reuse them for storing shoes, dirty laundry while traveling, as a trash bag in small trash cans, carrying my lunch to work, etc., but I want to get away from them as much as possible. The bags eventually make their way to the landfills. I’m glad to know that the stores encourage and accept canvas bags. Possibly, Publix, Kroger and other chains could produce these canvas bags with their logos on them.
The ban on plastic bags in San Francisco is not actually a ban on plastic, but a mandate to use bags that break down faster in land fills. The problem with using these bags is that if they are mixed with regular plastic bags to be recycled, they ruin the entire batch of bags trying to be recycled.
If you compare paper and plastic bags, the energy used to make bagsand overall environmental “footprint”, plastic bags are by far more environmentally friendly. If you look back to when paper was the primary grocery bag of choice, people were looking to find an alternative because [of] the environmental “footprint” paper caused (cutting trees, processing the paper and the energy consumed.) Plastic was the answer and a huge environmental improvement. Of course reusable canvas type bags are best overall, and you do see grocers promoting the use of reusable bags. Grocers would love to see canvas bags used – it would save them money.
Ireland has taxed/banned bags so that canvas is used primarily, the problem now is that more small bathroom sized garbage bags (that take much longer than traditional grocery style plastic bags to break down) are being purchased for use in small garbage cans – a place where most people reuse their plastic bags now.
Please take these comments into account and I would be happy to share details to back up my statements if you or anyone else would
like to know more about the issue. The grocery and plastics industry takes the issue very seriously and works hard to assure that the best methods are used to keep our environment safe for us all.
PlanetTrash: Mr. Springer, what do grocery stores do with the plastic bags that we leave in the recycle bins at their stores? I hate plastic grocery bags getting caught in trees. Could grocery stores follow Costco lead and use boxes to put our groceries in when we check out?
There is actually a high demand for the bags and they are quite valuable in the recycling world. A recycling company picks up the bags from the store
and they are converted to new products. Plastic lumber, more bags and plastic pellets are a few of the uses for recycled bags. Grocers are taking the lead and voluntarily setting up plastic bag bins in front of their stores.
Obviously the consumer must choose to recycle to make it work to the best it can. Don’t forget that consumers reuse plastic bags around the house, etc. And Reuse is also a part of the “Three R’s” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. All three R’s have a place, but it seems that Reduce gets an abundance of the
focus and we don’t remember that Recycling and Reusing is a major part of making the world the best it can be because we do need certain items and
products (including plastic bags) to assist us in our everyday lives.
The bags are light weight, so they do get caught in the wind and blow in to trees, etc – therefore getting more attention than other litter issues. As for the Costco question, grocers recycle their boxes that are used to deliver products to the stores. All grocers have huge box bailers in their back rooms that break down the boxes into bails and have a recycler pick those items up. For a traditional grocery format, use of boxes to carry out the items is not an efficient option for the retailer or the customer.
Feel free to post my comments on your blog. It is an issue that is important to the grocery industry and I wanted to share thoughts from the retailer
perspective so you and others will understand that the industry is taking a comprehensive approach to address the issue. Looking to all aspects of the
issue and not just eliminating the use of the bags. You may want to take a look at http://www.progressivebagalliance.com/ as well to learn more about
ways the industry is addressing the issue.