CalRecycle lacks funds to analyze plastic-film data

The California agency in charge of overseeing a state law requiring retailers to collect plastic bags and film for recycling says it has no funds to properly track the impact of the law.

Despite the abundance of raw data available to the agency, CalRecycle has not been able to analyze the information since 2009, when the recycling rate of plastics bags reached 3 percent.

“Work on the program at this point consists of a few weeks of data entry by entry-level staffers when the reports come in during the spring,” CalRecycle spokesman Mark Oldfield told the Associated Press.

Last year lawmakers renewed the program through 2020, but did not provide Oldfield’s team with additional funding to help with data analysis.

Each year retailers in the state are required to provide CalRecycle with data, including how many pounds of plastics bags were purchased during the year and how many pounds of bags were returned for recycling. According to information obtained by the AP, California retailers purchased 62.3 million pounds of bags in 2012, down from 107.4 million pounds in 2008. In addition, a total of 4 million pounds of bags and 27 million pounds of mixed bags and plastic film were reportedly returned for recycling in 2012. Without proper follow-up on the data, however, a 2012 recycling rate for plastic bags cannot be generated, leaving the state with little sense of whether the extended program is working.

Even without recycling rates, Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, told the AP there wasn’t much reason to believe plastic bag recycling had increased significantly. “I’m not sure having state bean-counters counting recycling that’s not happening is all that useful,” he said.

As local bag bans have gained steam throughout the state, a potential statewide ban on plastic bags could be taken up as a viable alternative to the current program, which does not require state retailers to charge consumers for plastic bags.

In August, CalRecycle forecasted that its beverage counter recycling program, hampered by out-of-state fraud and high recycling rates, would be insolvent by March 2015.  By Bobby Elliott, Plastics Recycling Update  Nov. 1, 2013

Source:  Resource Recycling

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