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U.S. plastic bag manufacturers sign up for sustainability

The American Plastic Bag Alliance, newly renamed the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, commits to using 20% recycled content in retail shopping bags by 2025.

U.S. plastic bag manufacturers and recyclers announced today that they have signed a wide-ranging sustainability commitment for the industry and renamed their coalition the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance (ARPBA). The agreement by ARPBA members includes a target that 95% of plastic retail bags be reused or recycled by 2025.

“Today, we are all proud to come together to commit to specific industry-wide sustainability goals,” commented Gary Alstott, Chairman of the ARPBA and Senior Vice President at Novolex. “Our alliance was founded by U.S. manufacturers who saw the benefits in plastic bag recycling and invested heavily in the infrastructure and education needed to make it a reality. Our members now recycle hundreds of millions of pounds of bags and plastic films each year, and each of us are undertaking many other efforts to promote sustainable bag use.”

In a telephone interview with PlasticsToday, Matt Seaholm, Executive Director of ARPBA, said that the name change also represents “another opportunity to educate people that our bags are recyclable.”

Many consumers have been told not to put plastic retail bags in the blue bins with other recyclables because the bags will gum up the recycling equipment. That has led to many believing that the bags are not recyclable. “We’re committed to improving the amount of information out there,” said Seaholm. “It’s not an easy task but from the industry’s standpoint it’s one we have to do. Our members are happy to print on the bags exactly what consumers are supposed to do with the bag. It’s not a lack of desire to recycle. People want to recycle—they just don’t know how.”

Seaholm explained that he is working with retailers to ensure that the correct How2Recycle instructions are properly printed on all U.S.-made bags. “We had a meeting recently with a large retailer at their headquarters and discussed this,” he said. “Over the course of the last couple of months, they’ve recreated the artwork on their bags in order to say ‘recycle or reuse/bring back to the store.’ People do want to recycle but it needs to be explained.”

Seaholm said that the recycling bins in grocery stores have seen very good success and that ARPBA is proud of the progress that has been made with this program. “As a result of our industry’s efforts to build recycling infrastructure, nearly all Americans can now conveniently bring plastic bags and other plastic films back to the grocery store to be recycled into new products,” he added.

With the current reuse rate of plastic grocery bags at about 78% and the recycle rate around 12%, nearly 90% of bags are currently reused or recycled, said the ARPBA. The goal of ARPBA members is to increase the amount of recycled content in their products to achieve the organization’s pledge of a 95% reuse and recycle rate by 2025.

The members committed to achieving the following minimum recycled content in plastic retail bags:

  • All bags will have 10% recycled content by 2021;
  • all bags will have 15% recycled content by 2023; and
  • all bags will have 20% recycled content by 2025.

Founded in 2005, the coalition proactively promotes product lines and leads numerous public policy initiatives that serve as the frontline defense against plastic bag bans and taxes nationwide. With the support of the industry’s workers, the ARPBA promotes American-made plastic products that are the smartest, most environmentally friendly choice at the checkout counter for both retailers and consumers.

Image: Викентий Елизаров/ Adobe Stock

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