Recycling Bags Made of Plastic

Among the biggest environmental concerns regarding plastics is that over shopping bags made of the material. Keeping them out of landfills and, perhaps more important, out of bodies of water is critical, we are being told.

A seemingly obvious way to address the challenge is to encourage recycling of plastic bags. Here in our area, the JB Green Team discourages the practice.

JB Green handles recycling in Belmont and Jefferson counties, and has collection points throughout the area. Recyclable material, including some plastics, is taken to a center in Pittsburgh or to a transfer station.

But material that includes plastic bags is a problem, JB Green Executive Director Anita Petrella told our reporter. The bags “get caught in the equipment and slow the process” of recycling, she explained.

So, when JB Green employees spot plastic bags in recycling bins, they remove them. “We try to take out by hand as many as we can,” she said.

Recycling is a complex, difficult process, often requiring taxpayer or sanitation customer subsidies. The Chinese government’s decision a few months ago to stop accepting some recyclable material from the United States makes it tougher.

But inability to deal with plastic bags is an obstacle that has to be overcome.

Don’t expect JB Green or any other small recycling operation to do that, because of limited resources. But surely someone in state and/or federal government can come up with a solution. Perhaps obtaining specialized equipment to handle plastic bags and offering the service at regional locations would do the trick.

Some major retailers are in the process of phasing out plastic bags. Still, they will continue to be a problem — for years. If their effect on the environment is as detrimental as we are being told, helping local recyclers accept plastic bags ought to be viewed as a priority in both state capitals and Washington.

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