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Plastic bag manufacturers and recyclers form Responsible Recycling Alliance

Plastic film is sorted on a table
Reusable plastic film grocery bags are made in California, contain at least 40 percent recycled post-consumer content. Adobe Stock Images

A coalition of plastic film recyclers and reusable bag manufacturers have launched the Responsible Recycling Alliance (RRA), a coalition organized to help Californians reduce, reuse, and recycle as a long-term environmental solution to plastic waste.

The RRA's founding members – EFS-Plastics, Merlin Plastics, and PreZero US – oppose AB 2236 and SB 1053, two bills pending in the State Legislature that would eliminate the convenient reusable plastic film grocery bags that millions of Californians use – and reuse – every day. They support instead shifting to the plastics industry responsibility for recycling reusable plastic film grocery bags by integrating them into the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Program created in 2022 by SB 54.

"AB 2236 and SB 1053 do not result in a more environmentally friendly option. We all share a common goal to protect the environment, and while I am certain that the proponents of these bills have the best of intentions, as written this legislation would roll back environmental gains, make shopping more expensive for low-income Californians, eliminate jobs across California, and make it more difficult for SB 54 to succeed in improving plastic film recycling in the state," said Roxanne Spiekerman, vice president of public affairs at PreZero US on behalf of the RRA.

Importantly, reusable plastic film grocery bags are made in California, contain at least 40 percent recycled post-consumer content (PCR), are used multiple times, and can be recycled into new bags and other materials.

"The proposed ban on reusable plastic film grocery bags would force Californians to choose between two options, both of which carry with them negative environmental challenges," added Ms. Spiekerman. "The canvas and sewn poly-woven or non-woven polypropylene bags are not recyclable by any known method in the U.S., contain zero post-consumer content, and are typically imported from overseas. Similarly, paper bags consume more water and energy during production and recycling than reusable plastic film grocery bags, resulting in a bigger carbon footprint. They are not intended to be reused, and consumers will have to pay more for them."

RRA strongly advocates for the addition of reusable plastic film grocery bags into SB 54 as the surest path to achieving the right long-term solution for recycling in California. The RRA says that doing so will:

  • Provide an easy-to-use way for Californians to collect the plastics they encounter every day – from dry cleaning bags to bread wrappers to so many others that are not included in curbside recycling – for eventual deposit in large collection bins providing the necessary volume to support plastic film recycling.
  • Protect middle- and lower-income Californians – who are among the most prevalent users of 10-cent plastic bags – from having to pay more at a time when groceries are already stretching family budgets. 77 percent of purchasers of these bags have annual incomes of less than $150,000, and 52 percent have incomes of less than $80,000.
  • Preserve thousands of jobs. The reusable plastic film grocery bag manufacturing and recycling industry employs thousands of workers in California and across the country. California's reusable plastic film grocery bag manufacturers cannot simply switch to making poly-woven and non-woven bags with stitched handles or paper bags.

"We're committed to the best approaches that are supported by research and backed by science," Ms. Spiekerman continued. "Californians have earned the right to the best solution that's available. We can accomplish our shared goals of great product circularity in an environmentally responsible manner and it's important to note that plastic film bag producers, as defined by SB 54, are the ones who will pay to fund the plastics collection infrastructure and the system-wide improvements necessary to ensure that plastic film is recycled."

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