Bag Blog

A better end for bothersome bags

By Bryan Gentry  (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.) Dozens of stores in the Lynchburg area collect plastic shopping bags for recycling.

Some of the bins sit in an obscure or crowded corner of a grocery store entrance, and sometimes they are not marked. At least one collection point is a giant garbage bag suspended on a metal frame .

But they are available, and that is one main point of a new campaign to get people across Virginiato reuse or recycle plastic bags.

“If you’re able to recycle it, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t recycle it. Otherwise, it’s going to end up in a landfill,” said Mike Baum , executive director of the nonprofit Keep Virginia Beautiful. “If it’s not contaminated, if you haven’t used it for something nasty, if it doesn’t have food  or another product on it, bring it back and give it more life.”

Keep Virginia Beautiful  kicked off a campaign this week in Richmond to teach people how easy it is to recycle plastic bags.

Most of the county or city-run recycling programs in the Lynchburg area do not collect plastic bags. Meanwhile, the Concord Turnpike Regional Landfill gets lots of plastic bags, said Region 2000 Solid Waste Director Clarke Gibson.

Plastic bags “tend to be a nuisance at the landfill, especially when we have periods of high winds,” Gibson said.

Some bags blow over the landfill’s fence, meaning a landfill employee must retrieve them, Gibson said.

Some state legislators have tried to ban or charge fees for plastic shopping bags to keep them out of landfills. The Virginia Retail Federation joined Keep Virginia Beautiful’s campaign to promote recycling as an alternative to those measures.

“We would rather leave the affordability of using plastic in the marketplace, but have plastic recycled and put into a secondary use,” said George Peyton  vice president of government relations.

For the campaign, Keep Virginia Beautiful compiled a list of stores in Virginia  that collect plastic shopping bags for recyclers, who turn them into new bags or synthetic lumber, Baum  said.

The list was added to the website abagslife.com, which lets people search for recycling points by ZIP code. The site lists 23 collection points within 10 miles of the Lynchburg 24501 ZIP code, including most major grocery stores.

Kroger stores have black cans with green-and-white labels asking for plastic shopping bags. At the Wards Road store, the label has a message stating that the store has recycled 88,121 bags.

“We certainly want to make it recognizable,” said Kroger spokesman Carl York .

“The bags that we collect are backhauled by our recycling partner, (Smurfit-Stone Waste Reduction Services) that uses them to make synthetic lumber. … Other Kroger divisions across the country do the same thing,” he said.

  • Area Food Lion stores have green or blue recycling cans, marked for plastics , near their entrances. Company-wide, Food Lion recycled more than 620 tons of bags last year, spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said.

  • The Walmart on Old Forest Road has a green can next to drink machines in its entrance. Marked “Plastics Only,” the can did not say that plastic bags could be dropped there, but an employee said it accepts bags. The Walmart on Wards Road had a can in each entrance with a large green sign stating, “Plastic shopping bags here.”

  • The Timberlake Road Lowe’s has a blue box where people can recycle plastic bags, compact florescent light bulbs and rechargeable batteries.

In addition to promoting bag recycling locations, abagslife.com is sponsoring a contest for recyclling videos made by high school students.

Nov. 20, 2010