Wednesday, June 07, 2017

A Bag Ban gets Banned

The City of Minneapolis passed a plastic bag ban last year that was supposed to kick in on June 1, but that never happened. The Minnesota legislature got involved and passed a state-wide ban on bag bans. This article has over 230 comments as of this morning, most of which are the predictable back-and-forth that we expect from the grand-and-glorious internet, but I'm going to comment on them rather than rehashing the pros and cons of a bag ban (and bag-ban bans!).

Consider this from marpie:
"It appears a lot of people making comments don't care about the incredible amount of time it takes for plastic to break down in our landfills. I didn't realize that we will never run out of space for our garbage.
While this may be true in a general sense, it is not true here. In Minneapolis, the garbage from the city (and greater Hennepin County) is taken to the incinerator downtown and burned (the thermal output being used to generate electricity). This incinerator is common knowledge (backing up against Target Field), widely discussed and was even mentioned in the article. For marpie and others to make comments about the horrors of landfilling plastic bags shows a profound ignorance about the local environment. And it's not just Minneapolis. The trash generated in St. Paul and its surrounding suburbs is also incinerated at a similar facility outside of St. Paul.

But just as importantly is what is not discussed in the comments: having the city accept plastic bags as part of their recycling collections. It's done in Washington County where I live. You take all the plastic bags and dry-cleaning films and such, put them into another plastic bag, tie it up and drop it into the (unsorted) recycling bin with the cans, bottles, paper and plastic containers. Creating the "bag-of-bags" makes it easy to separate it from the rest of the recyclables. Loose plastics bags would be a nightmare on general recycling equipment. Their high molecular weight makes them plenty strong (try stretching one with your bare hands) and the large surface area practically ensures that they will wrap themselves around moving mechanical parts, bringing the machinary to a halt. But that same high molecular weight makes them plenty appealing as a feedstock, so having a easy way to separate out bags and films is a real benefit and something that Minneapolis, St. Paul and other cities need to adopt.

But it is kinda amazing how us suburbanite eco-terrorists are able to take the lead on this issue, huh?


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