Milwaukee launches plastic film recycling campaign

Milwaukee launches plastic film recycling campaign

By Bobby Elliott, Plastics Recycling Update

Oct. 15, 2013

Asking residents to think outside of the bag, the City of Milwaukee is leading a spirited public campaign to increase recycling of all plastic film products.

Dubbing October "Milwaukee Plastic Film Recycling Awareness Month," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and a team of environmental groups are spreading the word about the economic and environmental benefits of recycling more plastic film. The effort is part of a broader, statewide program to increase Wisconsin's plastic film recycling rates, with Milwaukee's campaign relying on a number of media tools, including radio programming.

Increasing awareness is among the largest obstacles to raising recycling rates in the city, Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, said in a press release. "Many Milwaukee residents already know that they can take back plastic grocery bags to many retail stores for recycling," said Russell. "But they also can take back other plastic bags and wraps, such as zip top food storage bags, the bags for newspapers, produce, bread, and dry-cleaning, and even the plastic wraps from products such as paper towels, diapers, cases of water and more."

Another obstacle, however, could come from overseas, where demand for plastic film has been severely restricted by China's Operation Green Fence. The country's crackdown on imports of a wide range of scrap materials, including plastic film, has become an international news story, forcing operations here at home to no longer accept a host of materials. Moore Recycling Associates' Nina Butler, who has worked extensively on Milwaukee's campaign, told Plastics Recycling Update there's reason to believe that Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin can handle a gradual influx of film through developing partnerships with local and state recyclers.

"This is the beginning of a continuing effort," Butler explained. "Behavior changes and growth in recycling take time and committed stakeholders." Butler believes that by gradually collecting more and more film, the domestic scrap film market will develop on its own. "Market development only happens when there is evidence of an adequate supply of material with consistent quality," Butler said.

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