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Editorial: Bill would boost plastic bag recycling

Sun-Times Library

Sun-Times Library

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Updated: July 11, 2012 10:19AM

Sometimes the road to a greener world is uncertain and narrow, but it still looks like progress.

That’s the case with a bill awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature that would encourage the recycling of plastic grocery bags and plastic film.

Environmentalists don’t think the bill goes far enough. They’d rather charge a fee on each bag to discourage their use or ban plastic bags altogether, as Los Angeles did recently. And municipalities don’t like any law that pre-empts their own options, which this bill would.

But communities around the state could have passed their own laws already, and haven’t. So those plastic bags blow around in the wind and fill landfills.

There’s a better way.

Based on a successful pilot program in Lake County, the bill would require plastic bag manufacturers to set up recycling programs throughout the state, except in Chicago, which has its own ordinance. The program, backed by manufacturers and retailers, would have to cover 90 percent of the state’s counties, and 75 percent of the population would have to be within 10 miles of a recycling site. Overall recycling would have to increase 30 percent.

Besides plastic grocery bags, the program would cover plastic dry-cleaning bags, shrink wrap and the plastic film that’s wrapped around bundles of goods delivered to stores. Although plastic bags get most of the attention, plastic film accounts for 85 percent of the waste — 500,000 tons last year.

And if the program doesn’t meet its goals? The bill is designed to sunset in four years, so the whole project would go out of business and the state could try something else, said Rep. Michael Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), who sponsored the bill in the House. Only Highland Park now requires retailers to take plastic bags back, and only six other municipalities are even discussing local plastic bag programs, Tryon said.

Let’s tear the shrink wrap off this project and give it a try.

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