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Challenges Facing Businesses Affected by Plastic Bag Bans

by Broadway Industries | Posted in: Food Service Packing Supplies Pharmacy Textiles

With the changing regulatory landscape, businesses that offer plastic bags are finding themselves with the challenge of not only keeping up with numerous local and statewide bag regulations, but also finding ways to offer sustainable products in order to maintain compliance. There are a number of hurdles businesses need to overcome when turning to plastic bag alternatives. Here are just some of the most pressing ones:

Costs of Bag Materials

Some regulations specify that plastic bags may be allowed, but only if they are thicker than a certain requirement. Others state that no plastic bags are allowed at all, but paper or non-woven bags may be offered to customers as an alternative, sometimes for a fee or tax that customers pay upfront.

Either way, in general it costs more for businesses to purchase environmentally friendly bags as opposed to their non-recycled counterparts. Because compliance is not an option, many businesses affected by bag regulations are forced to pay what could be tens of thousands of dollars each year in order to offer more sustainable items. Not only are bag materials more costly, but many other related challenges may end up costing businesses even more.

True or False: Paper bags are more environmentally friendly to produce than plastic bags.

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Dealing with Durability

Plastic bags are often manufactured specifically to carry not only heavy items, but also wet items, without tearing. Many consumers prefer plastic bags because of their durability and reusability, and making the switch can result in a poor customer experience.

While paper bags are easier for consumers to recycle than plastic bags, because of their material they are more prone to ripping and are far less likely to be reused by the consumer either in their home or on repeat store trips. Customers may also need to use more paper bags in order to distribute the weight of their purchases to further prevent ripping or tearing, which costs the store money in supplies.

Expiration Dates on Biodegradable Bags

Some regulations provide exceptions for biodegradable bags, which can be a tempting alternative for businesses looking to provide a plastic bag to consumers while still remaining compliant. However, the high cost of these bags and the difficulty of handling them for recycling facilities are some of the reasons why biodegradable bags haven’t caught on yet. If an item is biodegradable that means it is capable of decomposing with or without oxygen over time. That also means that businesses with a surplus of biodegradable bags may soon find them decomposing in the supply room, which translates to wasted product. To prevent breakdown either due to surplus or even during transit, many businesses look to domestic sourcing options and order smaller quantities, both of which tend to be costlier.

Public Misconceptions About Recycling

There’s a common misconception that plastic bags can be comingled with other plastics for recycling, which is often not the case. This is because if plastic bags end up processed by recycling center machines, they can get caught in the gears and cause massive and costly damage to the equipment. As a result, many curbside recycling programs explicitly state that they will not accept plastic bags during pickup and will do what they can to weed any out before processing.

There are some bag regulations, such as the statewide regulation recently passed in New York, that require retail stores to adopt at-store recycling programs and print the phrase “Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling” on all plastic bags. Putting bag recycling responsibility on stores can take time away from staff and cost money to implement.

What other challenges face the paper and plastic markets?

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Stepping Up to Sustainability

Creating a more sustainable product is not without hurdles, but for businesses that are affected by bag regulations, compliance is the only option.

Broadway Industries is a family-owned manufacturer and distributor of paper and plastic packaging products. We frequently work with businesses navigating the changing regulatory environment. Our out of the bag innovation™, knowledge and capabilities allow us to provide sustainable and compliant options that work for businesses and their consumers, including plastic t-sacks, mattress bags, furniture covers, stretch products and textile bags, paper bags, non-woven bags and other custom solutions.


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