Plastic-bag recycling deserves shot
SouthtownStar editorial June 13, 2012 11:06PM
Updated: July 15, 2012 3:26PM
Those who believe strongly in recycling, and count us among them, should be encouraged by a bill that passed in the final hours of the Legislature’s spring session, creating a statewide program for recycling plastic bags and film.
The proposed law could be tougher and has its critics — environmentalists who want to impose a fee for using plastic bags or an outright ban on them in favor of reusable bags, and municipal officials who don’t like that the law prevents them from enacting local bans or taxes on the products.
Like any recycling program, its success will largely depend on people bothering to recycle. Studies have shown that participation in recycling depends on both awareness and convenience. The green movement has greatly increased public awareness of recycling’s environmental benefits, and a steady rise in curbside recycling has made it easy to do so.
The proposed law seems to be a solid step forward because it requires manufacturers of the bags and film to establish recycling sites within 10 miles of 80 percent of Illinois’ residents by 2015 and to boost the products’ recycling rate by at least 12 percent by that year. It carries a $1,000 fine for any violation of its regulations.
The omnipresent bags are a major target of environmentalists because they contribute to litter, can be a danger to wildlife and, being plastic, last forever. The best way to deal with them is to prohibit or at least discourage their use, according to many in the green crowd.
But we think banning them, levying a tax or charging customers to use them goes too far. Plastic bags are popular because of their strength and ease of use, and people should be able to use them if they wish without extra charge.
We also have no problem with the new law overriding local ordinances regarding plastic bags, which inevitably leads to a crazy quilt of rules and major compliance headaches for retailers and manufacturers.
We hope Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill. Before tougher measures are considered, let’s give a statewide, plastic-bag recycling program a chance.