Ah, the humble plastic bag, the unsung hero of grocery hauls, the reliable vessel for voyage of our fresh produce and boxed goods from grocery aisle to our kitchen counters. In its lifetime, a single plastic bag might carry anything from a gallon of milk to a week’s worth of junk food cravings. These transparent voyagers are so versatile. But as it turns out, in its afterlife, there’s a tragic twist. Our Sioux Falls plastic baggies are not getting the grand recycling send-off, but rather a one-way ticket to the landfill.
Now, who’s the culprit in this plastic bag homicide, you may wonder? Well, it’s our very own Millennium Recycling, the single-stream maestros of the recycling world. Marissa Begley, their marketing tsar, spills the beans: plastic bags, once the beloved companions of all recyclables, are now the outcasts of the recycling bin, the pariahs of the garbage world.
Why, you ask in disbelief? Well, Begley brands them as the ‘invisible threat’. You see, in the past, when plastic bags were allowed to frolic with the rest of the recyclables, humans had to play hide and seek with them. And it wasn’t just a fun game, it was a safety concern too. Those pesky bags love to play tricks on the workers and sometimes carry questionable contents. Now, machines have taken over that job, but the plastic bags have learned new deception techniques, playing hide and seek with the machinery and causing a ruckus at the worst of times.
If you’re looking for a partner in crime, Don Kuper, the landfill boss for the City of Sioux Falls, has also joined the ‘plastic bags go to landfill’ pack. Despite having the ambitious goal of extending the landfill’s lifespan, Kuper hasn’t managed to crack the ‘plastic bag code’. A major reason for this is plastic bags’ obsession with dirt. They simply cannot maintain their cleanliness while partying with other recyclables.
Then there are those programs at supermarkets where bins are provided to recycle plastic bags. These, unfortunately, also seem to enjoy holidaying at the landfills. Unless you have a way to recycle them at home, the only place for these bags is the trash. However, Kuper, in his wisdom, has a word of advice: tie up all the plastic bags inside one big bag, creating a plastic bag bomb, before you discard them.
In this tragic tale of unrecyclable plastic bags, the only glimmer of hope we have is the possibility of a technological leap that can help redefine their destiny. Until then, Begley says, just use less plastic. If paper bags are an option, jump on that bandwagon.
So next time you’re at the store, spare a thought for the journey your plastic bag will undertake after its brief stint in your home. Maybe, just maybe, the humble paper bag isn’t such a bad alternative after all.