Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Plastic Bagmen

In yesterday's SI Advance, the paper wrote about the City Council's legislative effort on plastic bags. What was interesting and different here was the Advance's reference to the support of the measure by the plastic bag manufacturer-in a rebuttal to our remarks: "Lipsky argued the bill offers no incentive for shoppers to return the bags, but a vice president of the bag alliance, David Vermillion, said stores likely will make money off the bags, which have a recycling value of 15 to 20 cents per pound, according to his organization."

Now we know Mr. Vermillion and genuinely like him, but to say that the store's will make money is,well, a stretch. You see, if this was such a money maker than, either the stores would have figured it out earlier, or some private recycler would have stepped up to collect all of that valuable plastic. And to use other state's or municipalities are exemplars is to misconstrue the uniqueness of the NYC environment, particularly the cost of real estate and the space premium.

We're more inclined to agree with Councilman Ignizio, the lone voice of pro-business sentiment that we've heard on this issue: "Once again, it relinquishes one's personal responsibility to businesses. I think if people want to be environmentally friendly, that's a laudable goal," Ignizio said. But "you ought not burden businesses with that responsibility. You're going to find businesses fleeing the city," he contended."

And the NY Post agrees, and in its editorial today make this observation: "By forcing city grocers to become the city's de facto plastic-bag-recycling agency, the council skirts its own duty. The city now prohibits New Yorkers from putting plastic bags in with other recyclables. Yet more people would dispose of the bags in an eco-friendly manner if they could dump them with the other plastics, as opposed to making a trip back to the grocery."

This is precisely the point that needs to be made here-one that Gristedes head John Catsimatidis has also already made. The city already has a curbside collection program that includes plastics of all kinds. So, once again as with the bottle bill, we are creating a dual collection system that adds costs to New York businesses and residents-without increasing the efficiency of recycling collection. If the curbside program is so ineffective, then why are we still paying $300/ton to collect recyclables-and doing it so poorly?

Which is certainly the case for Manhattan supermarkets, stores that are finding that the cost of doing business here just isn't worth it. Who knows, maybe plastic recycling kiosks can replace the evanascent groceries.