By Abigail Sztein
Manager, Government Affairs
Spring is the time when things begin to bloom and thoughts of nature become top of mind. It’s no wonder Earth Day, Arbor Day and National Love a Tree Day are within a few weeks of each other.
Often around this time, policymakers’ thoughts turn to legislation to help the environment. Bans and taxes/fees on single-use carryout bags are a popular concept for environmentally-minded legislators. There are over 80 state bills related to bags under consideration around the country. Unfortunately, some of these bills wrongly penalize the only bag option that is commonly accepted for recycling: paper bags.
Paper bags are part of the solution to the problem that bag ordinances are attempting to solve. When choosing a grocery bag, paper is the most environmentally-conscious choice. Paper bags are made from a renewable and sustainable resource. Paper bags are recyclable, compostable and reusable.
The paper story is a great story. Here are a couple of key points to remember:
- Paper Recycling Success: The paper industry made a voluntary decision to improve our recovery rate almost three decades ago. The recovery rate for paper has met or exceeded 63 percent for the past eight years. Our industry can serve as a model for others because these voluntary efforts have fostered a dynamic marketplace that allows recovered fiber to find its highest value end-use in manufacturing new products. That, in turn, helps to encourage more recycling. Case in point: 96 percent of the U.S. population has access to community curbside and/or drop-off paper recycling service and, by weight, paper is the most-recycled material in the United States today[i].
- Sustainable Preference: Consumers who are sensitive to environmental concerns choose paper bags. In order to respond to consumer demands, many retailers have voluntarily transitioned to paper. Again, paper bags are made from recycled paper, and are highly recycled themselves.
Many bag bills include a fee on paper bags, often kept by the retailer rather than collected by the government and put toward environmental causes.
Instead of penalizing paper bags with a tax or fee, make a responsible, sustainable choice and choose paper bags.