Oregon’s landfills and rivers need plastic surgery
Back to Main MenuBusiness News HomeFront PorchIt Only MoneyOregon the EconomyPlaybooks ProfitsSilicon ForestWindow ShopStock Market ReportBusiness Public BlogBack to Main MenuVideos from the OregonianVideos from The Beaverton LeaderVideos from the Hillsboro ArgusVideos from The Forest Grove LeaderYour VideosOne hundred billion plastic bags each year, cast adrift into the world’s oceans and landfills. You would think that might be enough.A market for plastic bag recycling that’s pathetic, at best, and a recycling rate of less than 4 percent. You might think that, too, would be persuasive.A plastics industry in panic mode, dangling a new recycling center out there if only the Legislature outlaws local bag bans. Is that enough to move Oregon’s deliberative body to serious action?Not yet. There’s still time, in other words, for the Legislature to make a powerful statement on plastic waste . or duck its sheepish head.I wouldn’t have fought this battle in Salem. Let me say that out front. I would have gone to war against those single use plastic grocery sacks in Portland, where the City Council is receptive, Fred Meyer leads by example and most of Oregon’s plastic trash piles up anyway.But Sen. Mark Hass, D Beaverton, elected to pursue a statewide ban, the nation’s first. He was chastened, I’m sure, by the plastic industry’s ability to scuttle Seattle’s proposed 20 cent bag fee, outspending supporters 15 1 in an August 2009 referral to the voters.And Hass was influenced, no doubt, by the experience of his co sponsor Sen. Jason Atkinson, R Central Point on the Rogue River, the Deschutes, Cricket Creek.The plastic bags, Atkinson said, “are all over the place. Those things don’t go away. They’re there until a flood or high water takes them out.””Unlike most other garbage, the bags don’t break down,” Hass said. “Oregonians use 1.7 billion of these every year, and only 3 to 4 percent are returned to those recycling barrels. The other 97 percent go somewhere else, and there’s no good place for them to go.”Aided by Gallatin Public Affairs, the plastics’ juggernaut is trumpeting recycling as the answer, a campaign greeted with skepticism adidas predator by recycling experts and open derision by anti plastic activists.Jerry Powell, a national expert at Resource Recycling magazine, said plastic film is “highly desired,” especially in Asia, but concedes, “It’s a costly item to move from the point of collection to the point of baling. I believe the item has so many problems that the ban is sensible.”Beth Slater, the lobbyist for Recology at CFM Strategic Communications, said the recycling rate for plastic grocery bags is so dismally low because people are inclined to re use them, filling them with fruits, veggies or gadzooks! Golden Lab waste, then throwing them away.There’s precious little profit in recycling the flimsy bags, Slater adds, a adidas predator nd no end of problems when the bags are co mingled with the glass and tin cans at Metro Central. Because the bags invariably clog up the sorting machines, they are responsible for 25 percent of the labor costs of running those machines.”That cost g adidas predator ets passed onto the haulers,” Slater said, “who pass them on to the consumers as rate adidas predator increases.”That, of course, is the plastic industry’s real end game, to shift all cost and responsibility for the bags to you and me.Like Powell, I don’t think the Hass Atkinson bill goes far enough. “We’re not attacking plastic shirt bags. We’re not talking about lettuce bags. If you are simply going for grocery bags, you’re not solving the problem, anyway,” Powell said.And if legislators cave, as legislators often do, Amy Ruiz promises me her boss, Mayor Sam Adams, will pick up where it left off.But that said, the bag ban is a nice place for the Legislature to congregate around the idea that Oregon lawmakers still believe in the right things, and can summon the will to make them happen.