Friday, August 22, 2008

Bag the Bag

I found this interesting Editorial on The Hub, a news source out of New Jersey from Philip J. Scaduto. He talks about how a local ordiance for retailers to use compostable plastic bags could ruin recycling programs and says that this is faulty solution to a system that isn't even broken.


For every local policy popping up there is some dude that has a similar ridiculous argument. The bottom line is we don't need plastic bags. Europeans do ok bringing their own bags when shopping and many of the stores I visit in DC people are starting to bring their own bags to hold what they purchase. It's such a unnecessary item that is doing a whole lot of harm. I understand change in any part of our lives is difficult but really . .. don't these corporate executives have better things to do than to bash local policies that are trying to make a dent in our over-consuming society?

Borough asked to reconsider proposed plastic bag ordinance


(Letter to Red Bank mayor and Borough Council)

The Red Bank Borough Council has recently introduced an ordinance that eliminates the use of all plastic bags that are either not reusable or compostable, in all Red Bank retail establishments. For many years, our Foodtown stores have provided our customers exclusively with recyclable bags to demonstrate our commitment to the environment. Food Circus Super Markets recognizes the need for continued vigilance with recycling initiatives; however, we have serious concerns that we would like to have you consider before voting on this proposed ordinance.

As you are aware, Food Circus Super Markets has been a long supporter of recycling in all of our stores located in Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties, long before it was fashionable to do so. For over a decade, our stores not only have been recycling plastic, but also took the next step in establishing a program to recycle and reuse our perishable waste as well. Through this long-established program, we have been able to partner with a local company to recycle this food waste into livestock/animal feed and fertilizer. Further, our commitment to recycling, in concert with the broader supermarket industry, has resulted not only in providing the means to recycle plastic shopping bags (from all retailers) from our customers, but also includes recycling of our own internal shrink wrap and clear film wrap from the vendors that service our stores. Virtually every supermarket in the state of New Jersey has a program such as ours that is designed to accept these items and get them to a secondary market that uses this material to make other products.

As part of our recycling program, Food Circus only distributes to our customers bags that are 100 percent recyclable. The bags that all of our supermarkets use can be recycled, along with the other plastic materials mentioned earlier, by the many recycling plants that convert these items into composite lumber, fencing and other needed consumer products. The proposed ordinance threatens this process by mandating that retailers only use compostable bags in the future. Compostable bags are unreliable in terms of strength, use three times more material and energy to manufacture, and are 10 times more expensive than recyclable bags. More importantly, however, they cannot be recycled or in any way comingled with recyclable plastics. The finetuned cycle of converting grocery bags into usable consumer products would be halted. In fact, if compostable bags enter the recycling stream, they will serve to contaminate the entire batch, rendering it unusable and stopping any progress we have made with our recycling efforts.

Compostable bags may also create an issue of confusion for the consumer. It will be difficult to convey the fact that these bags cannot be co-mingled with "normal" plastic bags, in terms of recycling, and must be separated. The proposed ordinance will not encourage more recycling or the use of fewer bags and may, in fact, hinder the current efforts being undertaken in the borough and the entire state.

While we understand and appreciate any effort to keep our environment clean for future generations, mandating the use of compostable bags seems to fix a problem that is not broken. Indeed, the state of New Jersey does not yet possess the infrastructure to properly dispose of compostable bags. If the bags cannot be composted as they were designed, they will end up clogging our landfills. By mandating the use of compostable bags, it will not solve the dilemma of having our landscape marred with unwanted litter. It will only force prices to rise, creating other hardship on an economy that is already troubled.

Food Circus Super Markets wishes to continue its tradition of being a good corporate citizen and welcomes new ideas and approaches to recycling. Just recently we partnered with the borough of Red Bank to fund and provide educational materials regarding the benefits of recycling to the fourth-grade classes in our schools, and also provided receptacles for the recycling of plastic bags to our youngsters. The program has been so successful, that the borough has just ordered five more receptacles for use in schools beginning in September.

Food Circus Super Markets along with the Azzolina and Scaduto families respects and understands the importance of this issue, but wishes to continue and explore ways in which we, as the largest retailer in Red Bank, can promote further recycling efforts with recyclable, rather than compostable bags. We believe the benefits of recyclable bags far outweigh the uncertainty, expense and disruption to broader recycling efforts presented by a compostable bag mandate. Further, we are aware of eight bills introduced in the state Legislature that seek to address some of the same recycling issues that have been presented before the council.

I ask you, based on the information outlined above, to reconsider this ordinance and allow our borough's recycling efforts to continue and expand with recyclable rather than compostable bags.

Philip J. Scaduto is vice president of Food Circus Super Markets Inc. based in Middletown

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