North Carolina Launches Plastic Bag Recycling Program

North Carolina has become the fourth American state to enlist in the “A Bag's Life” recycling education movement, which helps consumers locate almost 1,200 grocery and retail store drop-off sites for plastic bags across the state. Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Ingles, Kroger, Lowes Foods, Target and Walmart are among the retailers taking part in the awareness campaign, which includes a website at  featuring a ZIP code locator app, and will roll out a make-your-own video contest this fall.

Through funny taglines like “Don't treat me like trash” and “Gimme a second chance,” the public-private partnership encourages consumers to reduce, reuse and recycle grocery bags. It additionally reminds people that other bags, such as those used for dry cleaning, newspapers and bread, along with wraps and films used on products like paper towels or bottled water, can be also be taken to many retailers for recycling.

“While recycling plastic bags is a shared responsibility, retailers recognize they must take a leadership role in the state’s recycling policies,” observed Andy Ellen, general counsel with the Raleigh-based campaign partner North Carolina Retail Merchants Association. “Most of our members already have established plastic bag recycling in their stores. A Bag’s Life simply takes those efforts one step further by making it easy for customers to locate the nearest recycling opportunity at their favorite local retailer.”

The website’s plastic bag icon is designed to take on a life of its own, smiling when happy, frowning when not. Copy on the site suggests that individuals should do their part to clean up litter and waste instead of blaming the bag if it's not being recycled or reused.

“This program demonstrates what public and private groups can do when they work together," said Heather Thompson, director of Washington-based Keep North Carolina Beautiful, another campaign partner. “Recycling plastic bags is a simple earth-friendly practice that can yield tremendous results. By taking the extra time to bring grocery bags back to the store to be recycled, we are giving that bag a second chance to be made into something else, like outdoor decking, park benches or even new bags.”

Across the United States, plastic bag recycling is on the rise, with more than 850 million pounds recycled in 2009, an increase of 31 percent since 2005, according to A Bag’s Life.

Other campaign partners include Winchester, Va.-based Trex, which turns millions of pounds of recycled and reclaimed plastic and waste wood annually into decking, railing and fencing products, and the Progressive Bag Affiliates of the Washington-based American Chemistry Council.

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