Friday, April 3, 2009


Recycling and Reducing Waste is Science. And those plastic bags just pile up. Sure they can be used as trash can liners or dog poop bags, but I bet you throw away more of them than you use.

But did you know they are in the High Density Polyethylene category of plastics and can be recycled? A lot of the plastic bottles we use are in that category also. (You can find these symbols on the bottoms of plastic bottles and learn what they mean here).

So there, problem solved, right? No more plastic bags hanging in the trees, or blowing along the roadway (looking like a cat out of the corner of your eye) or ending up in the bellies of sea turtles.

Actually, no. First of all, most of the bags are not recycled. Second of all, many of the bags that are recycled end up in China or India where a lot of our recyclables are dumped. Third of all, the cost to recycle the bags far outweighs what the return is in dollars, so who's going to do it?

Some are proposing a tax on up to 20 cents per bag to cut down on their use. In County Cork in Ireland such a tax reduced the usage of plastic bags by 95%. (National Geographic). But that would never happen here, and analysts say the loss of jobs and such would have to be considered, and that the return to paper bags would actually use more energy and create more waste.

The best idea is to just quit using them.

Almost every store now sells (and some give away) these reusable bags. For me, the hardest thing to remember is to put the bags back in my car so I will have them next time I go to the store. But it's just a matter of changing behavior, never an easy thing to do, behaviorists will assure you.

Notice too that the cokes are not even in bags. The bag-girl asked me if I wanted them bagged, and I said no. But the buyer can take the initiative and request "no bag" for large items like drinks and laundry detergent and bathroom paper.

And using these bags makes it much easier to carry the groceries into the house. I estimate that what used to take 6-10 plastic bags now ends up in just 2 reusable bags.

Even using those bags I still end up with plastic bags from some stores or if I forget the reusables. So, for the past two weeks I have saved my recyclable plastics (Number 1 and 2 are accepted here in Bessemer). This would occupy a good bit of landfill space, don't you think?

Bessemer Recycling is located on First Avenue North across from Bessemer Utilities and is open Monday - Saturday from 7:00 to 3:30. They take Plastics 1 and 2, Newspaper, Cardboard (both the cereal box kind and the big corrugated kind) and used motor oil (no cooking oil). I wonder what happens to Bessemer Recyclables from there? I aim to find out.

I will be looking into other aspects of recycling in Bessemer over the next few weeks as we approach Earth Day.


Anonymous said...

...and remember, the recycling center in downtown Birmingham (on 25th Street and 2nd Avenue North )will also take metal and aluminum cans, glass, and random paper (as long as there is no food on it (like newspapers, office paper, junk mail, etc.).
Publix stores have bins at their front doors that will recycle those plastic bags, and styrofoam (like the kind meat is sold on & take-out boxes).
Lots of ways to NOT fill up the Landfill!

Joe said...

Thanks Jo. There's a lot more to be said and we will eventually get it all out there.