If you’re like me, you are constantly facing the battle of the bag in your households as plastic shopping bags—taken from supermarkets, drug stores and the like—pile up in your cabinets waiting for a second life. Even though I try to be mindful and choose reusable (nonwoven!) bags for larger shopping trips and try to reuse them as lunchbags or garbage pail liners, it seems these bags are always bursting out of my cabinets.
While these bags are certainly a nuisance in your home, they are also an environmental hazard. Even though they can be recycled and should be reused, many of them end up in landfills and a number of communities are standing up against them (see Capitol Comments, page 24, for more information).
Amid strong opposition from the plastics industry, more and more communities are standing up and restricting the use of these bags, efforts that could prove profitable for nonwovens.
San Francisco started the initiative in 2007 and nearly 40 more cities have followed its lead, including Washington, DC, Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, and Austin, TX. Statewide restrictions have been introduced in legislatures as well, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
The various restrictions have typically taken one of three forms: bag bans that restrict retailers from providing any disposable bags at checkout; bag fees that require customers to pay for their bags, usually between 5 and 10 cents, with a portion of that revenue going to the government; and bag charges which force customers to pay for the bags, but with retailers keeping the proceeds.
These efforts should help increase the usage of reusable nonwoven shopping bags, already sold at most retail stores for less than a dollar. I see a lot of consumers using these bags at grocery stores to pack up large orders, but hopefully these efforts will expand usage into smaller shopping expeditions and open up even more opportunities for nonwovens in this market.