Reusable Shopping bags in; store’s plastic ?T-shirt bags’ on way out

Reusable Shopping bags in; store’s plastic ?T-shirt bags’ on way out

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The single-use plastic bag could be an endangered shopping species. The thin plastic bag with handles is under pressure from municipal bag bans and a growing number of retailers who are encouraging shoppers to bring your own reusable bags.

Anew industry has sprung up that’s churning out reusable bags made from recycled water bottles and other more eco friendly materials, and is poised to profit from the passing of the traditional plastic bag.

Dan Sabbah, president of global Design Concepts in New York, is one executive predicting the days of the plastic bag are numbered. “Plastic bags are quickly going the way of extinction,” Sabbah said.

“Retailers are getting ahead of this curve, Sabbah said. “I don’t believe anyone thinks this is going to go away. This is going to be the wave of the future.” Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest grocery and retail chain, has pledged to cut its plastic shopping bag waste by 33 percent- or 9 billion bags a year- by 2013. This year it began a bag-free trial in California, eliminating them at three stores there. Swedish furniture company IKEA and organic grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. stores banished them in 2008.

Target Corp. in April handed out 1.5 million reusable bags in honor of Earth Day. The discount retailer gives shoppers a 5-cent rebate for every time they use one of their own reusable bags instead of a new plastic one.

An organization that represents plastic bag makers argues, however, that the future of plastic bags will be one of rebirth and recycling, not R.I.P.

“Reports of the death of the plastic bag are greatly exaggerated,” said Shari Jackson, director of the Progressive Bag Affiliates, an association representing the major U.S. makers of plastic bags and plastic-bag recyclers.

“There’s another side- the recycling side- that is just not being told, and it’s growing,” Jackson said. The PBA has set an industry goal to achieve 40 percent recycled content in all bags made by its member companies by 2015. In 2008, Jackson said, more than 832 million pounds of bags and other plastic films were recycled and most retail chains have bins for recycling bags. Recycled bags are being used to make composite deck materials, fencing, shopping carts, containers and new bags, she said.

Supporters of the reusable bags say they hold much more than the typical t-shirt bag and because they are woven out of recycled plastics, they also can be tossed in a recycling bin when they wear out. Most retailers sell the basic reusable bags for about . Wal-Mart jumped on the reusable bags bandwagon in a big way in 2007, cutting its bag price to 50 cents.

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