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Plastics Recycling and Sustainability

Recently I received an announcement about NPE2015's creation of a "Zero Waste Zone" to bring life to the plastics industry's mission to advance recycling and sustainability. NPE2015 will take place March 23-27, 2015, at the Orange County Convention Ctr. in Orlando, FL.

It's about time! I hope it's not too little too late though. What do you think?

Many of you know I live in Chicago—the home of the hated Black Hawks, White Sox, Bulls, Fire, and Bears sports teams. (Everybody likes the Cubs though, right? How can you hate a team that has not won the World Series since 1908?) But I digress. . . Only this past April 30th an announcement was made by our illustrious City Council that it had voted 36-10 to ban plastic bags in most stores next year. It wasn't even a close vote. The ban got overwhelming support.

So, NPE reports that "SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Assn. will dedicate a special sector of the exhibit floor at NPE2015: The International Plastics Showcase to serve as a 'Zero Waste Zone' focusing on the industry mandate to reduce, reuse, and recycle plastics."

Back in March 2008, I wrote an editorial titled, "Sustainability—Déjà Vu All Over Again," expressing how I hoped we would get this "sustainability" thing right this time. I recalled in that editorial an earlier 1997 effort by the Flexible Packaging Assn. that was somewhat successful. 

Only a few months later in August 2008, I wrote my first commentary on a "Dirge for a Plastic Bag?" and how the death knell was sounding for plastic bags, with metropolitan governing bodies forgetting to analyze the life cycle of plastic compared to paper bags. "Dirge for a Plastic Bag Part 2" followed in September 2008.

Then as bag legislation continued to ramp up over the years, I wrote in June 2011 yet another editorial, titled: "Silly: Another Bag Ban" about Evanston, a nearby Chicago suburb, banning the bag. 

The following month in 2011, I reported, "Europe Faces Plastic Bag Bans." 

I can only hope NPE's new effort will be the start of a successful awakening that will spread from Orlando, Fl, where the show will be held, to Juno, AL. Here's what you can see at Zero Waste Zone:

  • Recycling demonstration by Rapid Granulator Inc. will process PET products into reusable flakes. Additional demonstrations are planned.
  • Products made from recycled plastics, displayed by companies such as Dell, EcoStrate, Green Toys, Preserve Products, Seventh Generation, and TerraCycle, with more to be announced.
  • PET recycling/sustainability van provided by the HB Media publication PETplanet Insider
  • Pursuing Zero Waste’ Wall, where NPE2015 attendees can pin their business cards to show their commitment to zero waste (and become eligible to win a motorcycle).
  • International Beer Garden, an attendee networking spot opening at 11 A.M. daily, where special events will be held.

After chatting with a colleague on the subject of our industry's lack of action, which we've concluded is due in large part to the recognition that plastic waste involves changing consumer habits—a difficult, if not impossible, task—I learned today that one company has introduced a new product addressing a very visible waste stream for plastic bags: marine habitats. Unfortunately, I do not see the company listed in NPE's exhibitor list. Known as EcoCortec, the Croatian-based company is participating in Marine Clean, a European project sponsored by CIP Eco-Innovation Program, in which marine debris removal is reportedly preventing further litter entry.

Comprising a biodegradable bioplastic material, EcoCortec's EcoOcean bags are claimed water degradable and are described as "revolutionary" in helping to maintain "clean and unpolluted waterways around the world."

Surely there are better ways to alleviate our plastics litter problem beyond banning the material. Your thoughts and responses are encouraged. And if you want to be the least bit proactive, visit the Bag the Ban website to sign a petition. And if you're interested in knowing how many state and local laws banning the bag are presently in force (with the exception of the recent addition of Chicago as well Evanston, IL, which has been overlooked since 2011), visit: http://plasticbaglaws.org/legislation/state-laws/

My friends call me, Yo

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