Craftivism Plastic bag recycling process

Published on April 27th, 2009 | by Kelly Rand

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Plastic Bag Recycled Content Goal

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In the near and distant future (2015) most disposable plastic bags you get at the local store will be made from up to 40% recycled content.

To reach this goal the American Chemistry Council announced a new initiative to invest in the collection and manufacturing of these bags. The recycling of plastic bags and wraps has escalated in recent years to an estimated 830 million pounds in 2007. This represents a 27 percent increase from 2005. Still, additional material will need to be collected for manufacturers to reach their goal. About 470 million pounds of plastic will be reclaimed for the manufacturing of new bags and will help in the development of plastic recycling and using recycled plastic content. Expect in-store recycling programs and the visibility of such programs to increase to help reach these goals.

Now, not all bags will be made from 40% recycled content and most will only achieve 25% recycled content. And it is unclear if you will be able to tell which bag contains which percentage.

So what does this mean for us crafters?

Well, not a whole lot.

I can see a decrease in fusible plastic crafting and the use of plarn due to a shortage of raw materials but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

An increase in reclamation will also decrease litter and the amount of plastic bags that end up in the landfill. If other countries adopted similar goals perhaps we won’t see any more plastic bag billboards or bags with a conscience.

I am also curious to see if the increase in recycled content will have an effect on the process of fusing the bags together. But again, this concern seems so small compared to the bigger picture. I am also torn between celebrating this step in the right direction and throwing my hands up in a huff about the low percentage and the time line to get there.

What do you think? Will this effort have an effect on plastic bag crafting or will we see plastic bags used in crafting well into the future?


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About the Author

Kelly covers visual arts in and around Washington, DC for DCist and is editor of Crafting a Green World. Kelly has also been published by Bust Magazine and you can find her byline at Indie Fixx and Etsy’s Storque and has taught in Etsy’s virtual lab on the topic of green crafting. Kelly helps organize Crafty Bastards: Arts and Crafts Fair, one of the largest indie craft fairs on the east coast and has served on the Craft Bastard’s jury since 2007. Kelly is also co-founder of Hello Craft a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly resides in Washington, D.C. and believes that handmade will save the world.



11 Responses to Plastic Bag Recycled Content Goal

  1. I actually did some research into the recycling of plastic bags. It’s not really feasible to recycle plastic bags as a permanent solution for two reasons:

    1) it’s horribly expensive and the market value of the finished product is low (meaning tax payer money down the drain)

    2) the final product is not as high quality as the original plastic (which is why 40% recycled content is about as high as you’ll ever see).

    Personally I feel like we need to discontinue use of plastic bags in favor for paper or canvas. I feel like any remaining bags (in the landfills or homes) should be reused rather than recycled.

    For instance, Conserve is a company in India that is collecting plastic bags from the trash stream and making beautiful bags, shoes and other items. There website: http://www.conserveindia.org/main.php

    You can get Conserve silverware containers from To-Go Ware. They have a great video on their site explaining Conserve as well: http://www.to-goware.com/learn/conserve.htm

  2. Pingback: Zack Perry » Recycling of plastic bags

  3. Lauren says:

    Hmmm…interesting. I’m all for removing these things from our environment, but I don’t see how even recycled plastic bags will be desirable, especially since more and more communities are moving to get rid of them altogether.

  4. Summer says:

    I agree… from a crafter’s point of view, I think we should still be making more canvas totes to reduce the darn things altogether. But I also don’t think crafts from reused plastic bags are going to disappear.

  5. I’m sort of torn the same way that you are between yay recycling, and what’s taken these guys so long?

    Esther – Thanks so much for those facts! I thought 40% seemed awfully low, since I didn’t think about the quality of the plastic. Interesting!

    I am totally with you guys – moving away from them all together seems like the best option. It feels like this goal from the ACC represents sort of a sea change. Almost like they’re finally reacting because of consumer pressure. That’s a good thing, at least!

  6. Sophia Katt says:

    The permanent environmental harm to sealife alone would make this last ditch effort by the petroleum lobby a no go. Surely your crafty readers don’t want to contribute to supporting that!

  7. Autumn says:

    I wonder about degradation. Paper fibers can only be recycled so many times, and the gloop left over is toxic. How much of the 40% recycled bags will end up being toxic gloop when they are sent for re-recycling?

    Reusable bags supplemented with compostable bags makes much more sense to me.

  8. Pingback: Plastic Bag Recycled Content Goal

  9. Pingback: Earth…Plastic? : EcoLocalizer

  10. karen says:

    Most people might believe since there are recycling bins for plastic everywhere, that it’s OK to use plastic. They are recyclable so why not use them? When in fact, stats like this just confirms that it makes no sense to produce plastic at all. What’s the point in making plastic bags when we can only recycle a small percentage of them and still have toxic remnants in the landfills? I also don’t like plarns or any crafting done with plastic bags. They are not contributing to the green movement – just another method of greenwashing the real problem.

    I say, go with cotton canvas that can degrade fast when we are ready to throw them away. I’m beginning not to like even those reusable bags that grocery stores sell since they are also made with synthetic material that won’t degrade.

  11. michael says:

    The so called fact that plastic bags are responsible for the killing of thousands of marine animals is a myth and based on a misinterpretation of a canadian study.

    “The central claim of campaigners is that the bags kill more than 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds every year. However, this figure is based on a misinterpretation of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that, between 1981 and 1984, more than 100,000 marine mammals, including birds, were killed by discarded nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags.”

    Also the production and recycling of plastic is more environmentally friendly than paper.

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