The start of the New Year give us the opportunity to look back where we’ve been and chart out where we hope to be this time next year. Over the past few weeks, the Plastics Division has been active looking at and proposing revisions to policies that impact plastics recycling. The first on our list is ISRI’s Plastics and Paper Bag policy. Our current policy was developed at a time when plastic bag bans were moving through legislatures at a breakneck pace and when MRFs were not able to handle the volume of plastic bags that were coming through facilities. At that time, the policy ISRI adopted was one that reflected the common wisdom of the industry.
ISRI’s policies are meant to be living documents, not static relics and in that spirit, our Division has engaged in a lively discussion around our existing policy. Rather than reflect on what was said in these discussions, I’d like to take the opportunity to ask for your opinions. Are plastic bag bans an effective management tool and are they achieving the goals they are meant to achieve? Should we continue to oppose such bans, or should we guide the conversation away from bans and educate policy makers on the benefits of using recyclable material in the manufacture of such bags? As a general rule, our Division supports the use of recyclable content as a way to drive demand and support recycling. Are plastic bags any different? Banning bags outright would deny us the opportunity to collect and recycle this valuable feedstock. But on the other hand, bags made with 100% virgin content does nothing to help drive recycling. With this in mind, we are striving to develop a policy that drives demand and encourages the use of recyclable content but at the same time does not restrict the marketplace from using materials it deems economical. With regard to MRF film, is our policy in need of revision? We currently support retail takeback programs as a method of collecting this material over curbside recycling and have endorsed programs that keep bags out of the bin. But with new technology that can handle plastic film and many programs including it as an acceptable material, is our opposition open for discussion? Should we instead develop a policy that favors education over outright opposition and encourages market development over banning a material?
The wonderful thing about ISRI is that we have many different points of view coming from members that sit at different points in the value chain. Bringing together these points of view and having these spirited debates is what ensures ISRI’s policies reflect the general wisdom of the industry and not a particular company or market segment. To do this we hold conference calls, webinars, workshops, and committee meetings to gather these points of view. I’m encouraging you to join this process and let us know what is on your mind. This is the only way we can succeed and truly represent the recycling industry.
I wish you much success in 2020!
Plastics Division Chair