Sunday, March 08, 2015

Bag Ban Bad

I'm a conservationist; I don't think we should pollute more than necessary, or waste resources, and we should tread as lightly on the earth as is reasonable--especially given technological progress.

I despise hypocrisy on the subject, though--jetting to Davos on your private jet to suggest the plebs need to sacrifice, or having a 10,000 square foot house (or several of them) while suggesting the plebs need to sacrifice, being driven in a limosine to your next interview or conference at which you'll suggest the plebs need to sacrifice, or even just flying around the world to travel or driving a low-mileage car while suggesting everyone should save the earth from global warming.

I despise doing ineffective things for show, a la the TSA's security theater at airports.  Other show-acts are driving a Prius (their carbon footprints are quite huge, when you consider the manufacture of their batteries) or carrying reusable grocery bags.  And California has passed an upcoming ban on so-called single-use grocery bags.  We're supposed to be oh-so-European and use cloth reusable bags, never mind the health issues involved if you don't launder them often enough or the water use if you do.  We just have to show how "progressive" we are.

But what if those inexpensive, made-in-the-USA, convenient bags, which I certainly use more than once (cleaning up dog mess, lining my garbage can), could be not only reused but recycled?  Would that be something worth considering?

If only.  I understand those plastic bags aren't necessarily made from petroleum at all, but rather are often made from natural gas or bio-based plastics.  What if we could recycle them as we do other plastics?

That's what I was thinking when I read this article in a small local paper:
A city-backed initiative received national recognition on February 17th as it was revealed that the “Energy Bag Pilot Program” in Citrus Heights successfully produced 512 gallons of synthetic crude oil from typically non-recyclable plastic items.

“We were very proud to be the first community in America to participate in the Energy Bag initiative,” said Mayor Sue Frost. “The program demonstrated how communities nationwide can benefit by diverting typically non-recycled plastics from landfills and give them new life as an energy resource.”

Sponsored by Dow Chemical, the Flexible Packaging Association, Republic Services, Agilyx, Reynolds Consumer Products and the city of Citrus Heights, the initiative began in 2014 and purple collection bags known as “Energy Bags” were distributed throughout the community.

The items collected for conversion came from approximately 26,000 local families who agreed to take part and ranged from juice pouches, candy wrappers, plastic pet food bags, laundry pouches, and plastic dinnerware.

Rather than disposing of them in the garbage, local residence put these items in their purple bags which were collected with the rest of the households’ recyclables.

Upon release of the official results of the initiative, Dow Chemical said that some 30 percent of the city’s population had participated and approximately 6,000 pounds of normally trash-bound plastics were diverted from landfills.

Nearly 8,000 purple bags were collected over the course of approximately two months. The plastics now slotted to become fuel were separated from other recyclables and sent to a separate plant where Agilyx used their patented thermal pyrolysis technology to produce synthetic crude oil from the contents of the purple bags.

Using this technology, the crude oil can be further refined and made into valuable products for everyday use such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, fuel oil, lubricants, and can even be transformed back into plastic.
This is a good and entirely reasonable way to deal with what would otherwise be mere garbage.

Update, 3/9/15Here's yet another way we can progress technologically, decrease our waste, and do something good for the environment:
California-based company Reduce.Reuse.Grow has just discovered a new way to recycle effectively, and it involves reusing one of the most commonly thrown away items out there.

The company has succesfully (sic) created organic coffee cups that contain embedded seeds — allowing them to grow into trees.
Pretty cool.


Mike Thiac said...


As an aside, many in the generation you are teaching (and the plebes who go to Earth Day events) are probably unaware that plastic comes from oil. And things other than POL. Nylon, shampoo, roofing material, etc.

Ellen K said...

Dallas has followed Austin in banning bags-or rather in charging for them-at every place from high end retail to fastfood. Since I live just outside of Dallas, I have to be very careful when shopping for groceries to make sure I have some bags in my car or I essentially encounter what amounts to a tax on my purchases. Here's what is odd to me. The county doesn't sell bags to the vendors, yet they demand in repayment an ESTIMATED amount per month as what is labeled the "bag fee." Who determines this? If I go to a fastfood place and get three bags for my order, why am I charged more for three small bags than for the one large bag my groceries come in? I am also of the opinion that we need to be careful with resources, but it appears those on The Left pick and choose favorites.

If you want to be truly efficient, you put all options on the table. The Left has essentially written off coal and nuclear and seems to be trying to destroy or impose taxes on oil by any means necessary. (Example: KeystoneXL). That leave precious few really efficient means of creating energy. The irony is that the socalled electric cars and hybrids often rely on energy in increasing amounts which are in turn created using the very means those people oppose.

As for the bag ban/fees-the retail effects will only be recognized after the damage is done. Point of purchase sales, which some retailers say account for 15% of all sales, will be limited. In addition, I too make ample use of plastic bags. Some of those uses are as packing material, keeping Christmas lights from tangling, impromptu tie downs, dog poop, covers for in progress ceramic projects and more. Frankly I'm more outraged at finding used disposable diapers in the parking lots left on the ground by slovenly cretans. Now that would be a ban I could get behind.

Auntie Ann said...

My 14 year old niece made a lovely connection the other day: I was complaining that CA requires health insurance companies to send out a letter every single month saying that there is a grace period to pay your health insurance premium. Several hundred thousand of these letters must be sent monthly.

She wondered why, in a state that views grocery bags as a massively polluting evil, did the state then turn around and require this silly waste of paper, time, and energy?