The Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Act (SB 3442) has generated considerable interest. As one of the lead proponents of the bill, the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County felt it was important to present its viewpoint on the bill along with some historical context.
The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County has worked on the issue of plastic bag and film recovery since 2007, when it partnered with Sen. Terry Link to introduce a bill to require certain large retailers to collect and recycle plastic bags. That bill was opposed by retailers as a direct government mandate that not all retailers were prepared or able to comply with without incurring additional costs.
Ultimately, legislation was passed in 2007 that established a task force to study plastic bag recycling and the implementation of a pilot recycling program in Lake County. The pilot program was conducted in 2009 and a report was submitted to the General Assembly in May 2010. The report documented that plastic bags only represent about 15 percent of the 500,000 tons of plastic film disposed of each year in Illinois landfills. In SWALCO’s opinion, the key issue had become how to collect and recycle not only plastic bags but all the other plastic film in an acceptable and effective manner.
SB 3442 provides manufacturers and retailers, not state government, the opportunity to develop and implement a statewide program for collecting plastic bags and film. The law sunsets in 2017 and if the manufacturers and retailers haven’t developed a robust and effective program, then local units of government will be free to adopt local ordinances.
The most important aspect of SB 3442 is recovering the valuable plastic film currently put in landfills and creating more recycling jobs in Illinois. Let’s pass the bag bill and see what can be accomplished over the next five years.