California Now Isn’t Satisfied With Recyclables

Since California approved the country’s first prohibition on single-use shopping bags in 2014, the majority of grocery businesses have switched to thicker, reusable, recyclable plastic bags.

However, Attorney General Rob Bonta is currently reviewing whether the bags are in fact recyclable as legally required.

He demanded six bag makers provide evidence to support their claims that the bags are recyclable and filed charges, which may include a temporary ban on the bags or the imposition of multimillion-dollar fines.

Ban After Ban

Last Monday, his administration refused to disclose how many firms answered, citing an ongoing inquiry. According to the American Chemistry Council, a trade association for the plastics sector, manufacturers dispute Bonta’s depiction.

Following California’s lead, several states, notably New York, New Jersey, and Oregon have outlawed single-use plastic bags.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports, outside of California, only a few states compel retailers to accept plastic bags for reuse, with Maine passing the first such law in 1991.

According to policy experts and campaigners, just 6% of plastics are reused in the US, with the remainder being burnt, discarded, or littered. Per information from the state’s recycling agency, more plastic bags wound up in California dumps in 2021 than in 2018.

Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, blames epidemic policies in part.

It is expected that consumers may return plastic bags to supermarkets and other merchants. Fearing contamination, many individuals removed their bag recyclables in the early days of the epidemic.

For the system to function, shops must collect the bags and resell them to manufacturers for use in the production of new bags containing at least 40% recycled material and reusable at least 125 times.

Murray estimates the majority are repurposed once to house further waste.

Each shop has its own policy, according to the California Retailers Association, and the California Grocers Association did not reply to a request for comment.

Now, bag manufacturers may self-certify to the state that their bags are recyclable. However, according to Bonta, a full infrastructure to collect, handle, and sell discarded bags does not yet exist.

According to him, placing the bags in most municipal recycling bins impedes the recycling of other materials by blocking equipment and raising the danger of worker harm.

Six Manufacturers

Bonta requested that six manufacturers, Novolex, Inteplast, Revolution, Metro Polybag, Advance Polybag, and Papier-Mettler, provide evidence that their bags are recyclable in California.

His administration has not disclosed whether all of them answered, citing the continuing inquiry.

Novolex stated the company is “dedicated to adhering to all state rules and regulations.” The corporation responded to Bonta’s request, but declined to provide the press with its complete response.

An external laboratory has validated Novolex’s bags as recyclable; thus, they must be identified as such, the business stated in a statement. The remaining four businesses did not reply to repeated email queries.

According to Joshua Baca, VP of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, manufacturers are “working vigorously to recycle all plastic packaging into new plastics.”

This is not Bonta’s first conflict with the plastics sector. He subpoenaed ExxonMobil earlier this year as part of what he termed a groundbreaking inquiry into the petroleum business and the rise of plastic garbage.