The Progressive Bag Affiliates (PBA) of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) recently announced a landmark effort to dramatically step up recycling of plastic bags. The Full Circle Recycling Initiative sets an aggressive goal of 40% recycled content in all plastic bags by 2015, including at least 25% postconsumer recycled plastic. PBA's membership comprises of leading manufacturers of plastic bags and polyethylene resins including Advance Polybag, Inc., The Dow Chemical Company, ExxonMobil Corporation, Hilex Poly Co., LLC., NOVA Chemicals, Inc., Superbag Corporation, Total Petrochemicals USA, Inc. and Unistar Plastics, LLC. To meet the recycling target, participants will each separately decide how to support the goal. However, the industry will outlay US$50 mln to overhaul manufacturing processes and on an annual basis will collect 470 mln pounds of recycled plastic for the manufacture of new bags. As in recent years, the PBA will continue working with major grocery and retail chains to increase at-store programs that allow shoppers to bring back their used plastic bags and wraps.
According to PBA, this initiative will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 463 mln pounds, conserve enough energy (natural gas) to heat 200,000 homes, and reduce waste by 300 mln pounds every year. Cal Dooley, President & CEO of the American Chemistry Council said, "Plastic bag makers have listened to policy makers and customers and are launching an initiative that will make a lasting positive impact on American communities." The move was applauded by Walgreen Co., the nonprofit Keep America Beautiful, and numerous retailers and retail associations. Though recycling of plastic bags and wraps has increased in years to an estimated 830 mln pounds in 2007 -- a 27% increase from 2005 -- additional material will need to be collected for manufacturers to reach their goal. California's 2007 at-store plastic bag recycling mandate and similar laws in New York and Rhode Island will help fuel continued growth in recycling.