Staff Reports-After six months of deliberation and two research presentations, the Henderson County Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) voted unanimously on September 5 to suggest that the Henderson County Commissioners should NOT ban plastic bags in Henderson County. This conclusion was presented by Pam Danz, the new Chairman of the EAC, at the September 18 County Commissioners Meeting.
The first presentation to the EAC authored by Dan West, outgoing EAC Chairman, occurred on June 6, 2013. He held that plastic bags are “terrible for the environment – they choke wildlife, they don’t breakdown in landfills, they add to our demand for oil, and they aren’t easy to recycle, and that 90 % of plastic bags are not recycled.”
The second presentation to the EAC on September 5 pointed out that the plastic bags discarded in Henderson County are not choking wildlife they are buried in a lined landfill. Further, plastic bags manufactured in the USA are made from natural gas, not oil, and although it is still wasteful to throw away any energy source, many people enjoy using plentiful, local, natural gas in the form of lightweight waterproof bags. This is no more wasteful than lighting a football field during a night game for the enjoyment of football fans. It is a choice consumers make. Also, plastic bags only make up less than half of one per cent (.4%) of the solid waste stream. In addition, plastic bags may be easily recycled by consumers at most local grocery stores and Wal-Mart. It was also pointed out that the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry is an American industry that employs more than 30,000 Americans in 349 plants across the county. Recycled plastic bags are not only used to make new plastic bags but are used to make building products used for decks, playground equipment, and fences. If a ban on plastic bags were to become national it would kill 30,000 jobs.
Because it is desirable to promote the formation of jobs and the reduction of even a small amount of the solid waste that the county pays to have hauled away, the EAC also suggested that the County Commissioners encourage the recycling of plastic bags and the use of personal shopping bags by bestowing an annual certificate of appreciation upon the retail establishment that most reduces the per capita use of plastic bags among their customers. It is in the best interests of retailers and consumers to reduce the use of plastic bags because each bag costs four cents and that cost is rolled into the cost of all goods purchased by Henderson County consumers.
The EAC also resolved at its September 5 meeting to further study the concept of encouraging a modern waste-to-energy firm to locate in our area. Such a facility produces electricity and heat in boilers designed for complete combustion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said that they produce electricity “with less environmental impact than almost any other source of electricity.” Burning just the garbage now sitting in U.S. landfills in waste-to-energy facilities could theoretically yield 162 million MWh of electricity – enough to power 16.2 million households.